The April 11 vote comes as Peru is grappling with a coronavirus surge and years of political scandals.
MARIANA SANCHEZ: It's one of the most unpredictable general elections in Peru's history. 18 presidential candidates, and pollsters say any of the six frontrunners could reach the second round. It's an unprecedented scenario fueled by the pandemic. Hours ahead of the vote, it was too close to call.
URPI TORRADO: (VIA TRANSLATOR) The campaigns have been unusual. People haven't had the chance to meet candidates. There have been hardly any rallies or town visits. Nearly 60% of people don't know the candidates' proposals, so they'll be undecided until the last minute.
MARIANA SANCHEZ: And this may be why they are undecided. Keiko Fujimori, running for the third time while under investigation for corruption. Veronica Mendoza, making a second run with a progressive left-wing agenda, is ideologically far from the radical leftist teacher Pedro Castillo. Hernando DeSoto, known for his controversial theory of beating poverty through giving land titles to the poor, has falsely claimed owning 10 doctorates. Yonhy Lesano, a populist who says that coronavirus can be cured with alcohol and salt. And then, there is an ultra-conservative, Rafael Lopez Aliaga, who says he practices self-flagellation when in front of a pretty woman.
But Peruvians seem to be more worried about their health than politics. Tens of thousands have died of coronavirus. Cesar Gaspar is waiting for news of his wife in hospital.
CESAR GASPAR: (VIA TRANSLATOR) With all this happening, the election should have been suspended. So many people are dying, and now what? A new president? What is he going to do?
MARIANA SANCHEZ: Peru is at the crest of the second wave of contagion. With the Brazilian variant rapidly spreading, many are afraid of catching the coronavirus. Pollsters say they don't know how many people will not vote. It is a big question for many older Peruvians who are trying to decide whether to take the risk of voting and getting infected at polling stations. Pollsters say the candidates on offer are so unimpressive, voters have been constantly changing their minds.
PATRICIA ZARATE: (VIA TRANSLATOR) Our findings continue to show that each week, each day, people change their opinion. If the elections were two days or one week after, we would probably see different results.
MARIANA SANCHEZ: Marita Colan waiting for news of her son ill with COVID, says she doesn't know if she will vote.
MARITA COLAN: (VIA TRANSLATOR) They make so many promises. I hope their hearts are moved and they take pity on the COVID-19 patients.
MARIANA SANCHEZ: In such a fragmented scenario, where not one candidate holds more than 13% of support in the polls, the only certainty is that there will be a runoff vote in June. Mariana Sanchez, Al Jazeera, Lima, Peru.