LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s electoral board on Tuesday left the question of whether “outsider” presidential hopeful Julio Guzman - now seen as the biggest threat to front-runner Keiko Fujimori - will be able to participate in April elections.
Guzman has rapidly risen to second place, but allegations that his centrist party failed to comply with technical electoral rules last year threaten to upend his bid.
In an ambiguous statement, the National Jury of Elections reaffirmed its previous move to bar the registration of Guzman’s party, but said a separate electoral body would determine if Guzman can run for president.
Several lawyers said the board’s decision would likely force the Special Jury of Elections to reject Guzman as a presidential candidate. Others said the constitutional right to participate in elections should trump any relatively minor violations.
Guzman interpreted the electoral board’s 3-2 move to reject the appeal he filed last week as a victory.
“Our campaign continues!” Guzman said after emerging from a tent in front of the headquarters of the National Jury of Elections where had been camped out with supporters.
Guzman said he would continue his legal push to stay in the race and called for a national march to back him up. He has previously vowed to take his fight “to the ultimate consequences.”
Guzman, 45, has tapped a well of support from Peruvians hoping to vote for someone new in a race dominated by well-known but unpopular politicians.
Campaigning on promises to take the country back from a corrupt political establishment, Guzman was seen in a recent Datum Internacional poll as virtually tied with Fujimori in a likely June runoff, a first for any of her rivals.
Fujimori, the rightwing populist daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, enjoys a double-digit lead over Guzman and others for the April 10 election but is not expected to garner enough votes to win outright.
The electoral board said earlier this month that Guzman’s party broke several rules, including modifying its own statutes in an assembly without enough advance notice, that merited disqualification.
Guzman has accused the board of acting in the interest of other candidates, which it has denied.
Guzman, unknown to most months ago, is an economist and former official in the government of President Ollanta Humala. Humala cannot run for a second consecutive term and the ruling party candidate is trailing in polls.
Reporting by Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino; Editing by Lisa Shumaker