LIMA, Peru — Ollanta Humala, who campaigned to put Peru's economy in state hands, held a slim lead Monday in a tight three-way race for president, official results showed.
With 79% of the vote counted, Humala, a 43-year-old former army commander and ally of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, had 30.14%, election officials said.
Two other candidates were locked in a close race to determine who would face Humala in a second round because no candidate appeared likely to capture more than 50% of the vote.
Left-of-center former President Alan Garcia trailed Humala with 24.87%, moving slightly ahead of Lourdes Flores, a pro-business conservative, who had 24.2%.
As the count continued, Garcia gained in mostly impoverished rural areas while Flores, whose stronghold is Lima, the capital, lost ground.
Humala, who also pledged to industrialize Peru's production of coca, the basis for cocaine, makes business leaders and the European-descended upper classes nervous.
If elected, he would be the latest in a string of Latin American leftists to come to power challenging U.S. policies such as coca eradication.
Peru is the world's No. 2 cocaine producer, after Colombia.
"Humala's going to nationalize our natural resources for the good of the people," said Neida Tico, 41, a farmworker voting in Lima. "He's going to end poverty."
Most popular among Peru's rural poor, Humala pledged to keep the fiscal deficit small despite his generous welfare plans.
The business community dreads a second round between Humala and Garcia, who presided over economic collapse during his 1985-90 rule.
Garcia, 56, saw his popularity rise in the final preelection polls as support ebbed for Flores, 46, a lawyer who struggled to connect with the needy.
In the 2001 election, Garcia slipped past Flores at the last minute to face off against outgoing President Alejandro Toledo in the runoff.
"We're going to see a tough battle over the ballots, and Flores and Garcia are going to want every vote counted," political analyst Alberto Adrianzen said.
Undaunted by the close figures, hundreds of Flores' supporters celebrated with fireworks in Lima in the belief that she had made the runoff.
Flores, who led in polls only months ago, has played up her potential role as Peru's first female leader in a country where women are perceived as more honest than men.