With about 83% of the vote counted from Sunday’s election, Ollanta Humala led with 30.84% compared to 24.62% for centre-left ex-president Alan Garcia and 23.71% for pro-business former congresswoman Lourdes Flores.
Elections officials said it could be days before there is a definitive outcome. Since no single candidate won a majority, the top two finishers will meet in late May or early June in a run-off.
Mr Garcia, whose 1985-1990 rule ended in hyperinflation and surging violence by Shining Path rebels, yesterday overtook Ms Flores, a lawyer and pro-business conservative who international investors see as the best candidate for Peru’s €62 billion economy, was third with 23.71%.
Pre-election polls showed Mr Humala would face a tight run-off against Mr Garcia and was likely to lose to Ms Flores in a second round of balloting.
Election authorities said it could take up to 20 days to determine the second-place finisher.