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Second Peruvian Bishop Weighs In on Elections, Knocks Frontrunner

A man rests near a sign that reads 'vote' on a street in Comas on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, March 4, 2016.

A second Roman Catholic leader in Peru weighed in on the country's presidential elections, saying on Wednesday that he would never vote for frontrunner Keiko Fujimori and praising a candidate condemned by an archbishop at Easter mass.

Bishop Emeritus Luis Bambaren met left-leaning presidential hopeful Alfredo Barnechea three days after an archbishop said that voting for him would be "a sin" because of his position on gay rights and abortion.

Barnechea has said he supports civil unions to give gay couples the legal benefits of marriage and was not against abortion in the case of rape.

"I'm not going to say who I'm going to vote for, but he's clearly a good candidate," Bambaren told reporters as he stood next to Barnechea. "Who I would never vote for is Keiko."

Bambaren said Fujimori would renew the corrupt rule of her father, former president Alberto Fujimori, who is now serving a 25 year prison sentence for graft and human rights abuses. "Like father like daughter."

Fujimori has lamented the "mistakes and crimes" committed during her father's 1990-2000 presidency but has struggled to win over middle-ground voters who fear a return to Peru's authoritarian past. She enjoys a wide lead in opinion polls over all of her 10 rivals but is not expected to win outright in the April 10 election.

The election winner would replace President Ollanta Humala, whose five-year term ends this year.

Barnechea and others have been competing to come in second in order to tap a well of opposition to Fujimori in a likely June run-off. Opinion polls have put him at third or fourth.

Opposition to Fujimori has surged to 49 percent, according to an Ipsos poll, after the country's electoral authorities tossed two of her rivals from the race while clearing her of similar allegations of breaking electoral rules.

Twitter users said Bambaren and Archbishop Javier del Rio should not meddle in elections in Peru, where the Catholic Church enjoys state subsidies and abortion is illegal unless a woman's life is at risk.

A bill to create civil unions was defeated by Fujimori's party last year.