Peruvians voted Sunday in presidential and legislative elections. A protest erupted at a polling station where an ultra-nationalist former military officer cast his ballot.
Scores of demonstrators chanted "assassin" and hurled debris while security forces scrambled to allow Ollanta Humala safe passage from the polling station at a Lima university. Riot police were eventually called in to escort the candidate from the locale and help restore order.
Humala, one of three top contenders for the presidency, has promised to wield a strong hand in fighting corruption, poverty and unemployment. His detractors accuse him of violating human rights during his career and being a dictator in the making, but Humala denies wrongdoing and insists he will adhere to democratic principles.
The protest came moments after outgoing President Alejandro Toledo praised voting as a democratic celebration carried out with absolute transparency.
He said, "There are more than 200 international observers present from the Organization of American States, from the United Nations, from Europe, and Asia. And I ask all Peruvians to vote, to exercise their right and help construct a better Peru."
Elsewhere, the mood was upbeat in an upscale Lima neighborhood where center-right candidate Lourdes Flores cast her ballot as supporters roared their approval.
Flores, who has promised to boost economic opportunity by aiding small businesses, and urged all Peruvians - including her supporters - to vote peacefully and condemned the anti-Humala protest.
She said, "I lament and deplore it. What Peru needs today is a celebration of peace, harmony, democracy and respect for others. And I think these actions are not helpful in any way."
Flores, who hopes to become Peru's first female president, added she trusts voters to do what is best for the country.
Among those who voted for Flores is business administrator Andres Trujillo.
He said, "Historically we have had all male presidents, and it has been a catastrophe. I hope that a woman will put things in order."
Lima chef Consuela Garcia said she was tempted to vote for a female compatriot, but could not bring herself to do so.
She said, "I voted for Ollanta Humala. I hope everything changes, politically and economically. As for my career, I want to work."
Peru has enjoyed four consecutive years of strong economic growth, but poverty rates remain high. Surveys show most Peruvians feel they have benefited little from their country's overall economic improvement, and some analysts see the election as a contest about which candidate most embodies the concept of change.
Pre-election polls showed a tight race between Humala, Flores, and former President Alan Garcia, who says he is ready to lead once again and improve on the record of his previous administration.
No candidate is projected to come near the 50 percent of the vote needed to win the presidency outright, making it likely that the top two vote-getters will compete in a run-off election at the end of the month.