Leftist military man Ollanta Humala declared victory after unofficial results showed him narrowly winning a bitterly contested Peruvian presidential run-off against the daughter of disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori.
Mr Humala had promised the poor a greater share of Peru’s mineral wealth, and in a victory speech to a crowd of more than 10,000 said the nation’s impressive economic growth would “be the great motor of the social inclusion Peruvians desire”.
Mr Humala won 51.5% of the vote against 48.5% for Keiko Fujimori with all ballots counted, according to the independent election watchdog Transparencia, whose track record in previous elections is solid.
First official results, with 78% of the vote counted, had the race much closer, with Mr Humala ahead with 50.1%.
But officials cautioned that the count was light on rural districts where Mr Humala fared better.
Rife with mudslinging and dirty tricks, the election was marred by doubts about both candidates’ commitment to democracy.
Ms Fujimori’s father is serving a 25-year prison term for rights abuses and corruption and she shares the same inner circle of advisers.
Mr Humala has been accused of violent excesses as an army counterinsurgency unit commander in the 1990s.
Mr Humala, 48, allied himself closely with socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in his first run for the office in 2006, which he narrowly lost to Alan Garcia.
This time he softened his radical rhetoric and disavowed Mr Chavez, promising instead to follow Brazil’s market-friendly model.
He failed to win over the business elite, however, which fears Mr Humala will nationalise industries and expropriate private property. His rise in popularity was mirrored by Lima stock market sell-offs.
Mr Humala said in remarks he read at a Lima hotel in declaring victory that he intends to “build a government of national reconciliation, representative of the collective democratic forces and open to civil society”.
His champions were the neglected – one in three Peruvians are poor and have gained little or nothing from a mining bonanza that turned its economy into Latin America’s top performer during the past decade.
Jose Romero, a 58-year-old construction worker who said he was harassed for labour organising during Alberto Fujimori’s regime, was overjoyed by Mr Humala’s win.
“We’re getting everything back with him. Good jobs will come back. There won’t be corruption. I believe in his word,” said Mr Romero, who is from Peru’s poorest state, Huancavelica.
Ms Fujimori appeared briefly before supporters five hours after polls closed, asking her supporters to “wait responsibly and with prudence” the official results.
Exit polls gave Mr Humala better than 70% of the vote in four poor highland states including Puno, where Aymara Indians who object to a planned Canadian-owned silver mine suspended a nearly month-long highway blockade so people could vote. The protesters fear the mine will poison their water.
Ms Fujimori, meanwhile, captured Lima but by a modest margin.
Mr Humala finished first in the election’s April 10 first round, when three centrist candidates together split 45% of the vote.
He got a boost with the endorsement of fourth-place finisher Alejandro Toledo, Peru’s president in 2001-06. Earlier, Mr Toledo had likened voting for Mr Humala to “a jump into the abyss”.