February 4, 2016 / 9:30 PM / 2 years ago

Peru may bar presidential hopeful from April elections

Peruvian presidential candidate Julio Guzman (C) smiles during a rally at a market in the San Juan de Lurigancho district of Lima, January 20, 2016.Mariana Bazo

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru's electoral board may throw a presidential hopeful who has been climbing in polls out of the race, the second candidate in a week to face possible disqualification from elections in two months.

Julio Guzman, a technocrat and self-dubbed "outsider" who jumped to second place in a recent poll, failed to fulfill a series of requirements when registering his party, the National Jury of Elections said Thursday.

Last week the board said it might bar wealthy former governor Cesar Acuna from elections if a university in Spain verifies plagiarism allegations against him. The university is still investigating.

Guzman and Acuna have been competing to find enough votes to come in second in elections on April 10, which would give them a shot at challenging front-runner Keiko Fujimori in a likely June run-off.

Both are running for president of the global mining powerhouse for the first time and have found growing support from Peruvians hoping to vote for someone new. All other leading candidates are well-known politicians who have sought the top job at least once before.

Guzman said he would appeal the committee's decision to block his party's registration. He told reporters a "dark hand" was likely behind the decision, which came days after he jumped eight points in a poll by GfK Peru.

The electoral board said Guzman's party, Everyone for Peru, had improperly modified its own statutes last year by summoning a general assembly without enough advance notice, among other related alleged irregularities.

If the board ends up disqualifying Guzman or Acuna, it might make room for other long-shot candidates to rise in a country known for volatile voter sentiment.

Guzman, a 45-year-old economist who has vowed to uproot corruption and crime, has been building support through a social media and grassroots campaign that has branded his rivals "dinosaurs."

Guzman virtually tied Acuna and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a 77-year-old former prime minister, at about 10 percent in GfK's poll Sunday. In an Ipsos survey last month, Guzman rose to 5 percent.

Fujimori, the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, has drawn about a third of voter intent for several months, double her closest rivals but far from the 50 percent needed for a first-round victory.

Peruvians will head to polls this year for the first time since the end of a decade-long mining boom. Leading candidates have all vowed to bolster growth and crack down on crime.

Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by James Dalgleish

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