Peru election race tightens again as conservatives gain ground

FILE PHOTO: Peru's presidential candidate socialist Pedro Castillo, who leads in the polls ahead of a run-off vote on June 6 against right-wing opponent Keiko Fujimori, gestures as he addresses the media with former presidential candidate Veronika Mendoza, in Lima, Peru May 5, 2021. The writing reads "A true patriot in the government, The Profe Pedro Castillo, President" REUTERS/Alessandro Cinque/File Photo

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru's polarized presidential election race is tightening further, an opinion poll showed on Friday, with socialist candidate Pedro Castillo's lead being trimmed by right-wing opponent Keiko Fujimori just weeks before the June 6 ballot.

Castillo, whose sudden ascendancy has sparked jitters among investors and copper miners, was shown with 42% of the vote in a Datum International poll, one point up since the last survey. However, Fujimori gained four points to reach 40%.

That gap is a far cry from just weeks ago when polls showed a seemingly unassailable lead for Castillo, a teacher and former union leader who has pledged to rewrite the Andean country's constitution and threatened to nationalize mineral resources.

Datum also simulated a mock vote, taking out undecided responses, which showed Castillo on 44%, ahead of Fujimori, the daughter of ex-president Alberto Fujimori who is in jail for corruption and human rights abuses, with 41%.

The survey was carried out between May 12-13 and had a margin of error of 2.8%, the pollster said.

Other pollsters have also charted a trend of the race tightening in recent weeks, despite Castillo moving to moderate his speeches to lure more middle-ground voters.

Castillo, little-known until a shock win in the first round election in April, has gained strong support among Peru's poor, especially in rural areas away from the capital, who have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and sharp economic slide.

Peru's statistics agency said on Friday that poverty levels had risen around 10-percentage points to 30% last year, due to the hit from COVID-19, that saw nationwide lockdowns and the mining-driven economy plunge the most in decades.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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