Who Is Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Peru's New President?

The 77-year-old son of a Holocaust survivor and a French teacher pulled a slim victory over his rival on Thursday.

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Presidential candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski waves as he leaves a restaurant in Lima, Peru, Tuesday, June 7, 2016.
Presidential candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski waves as he leaves a restaurant in Lima, Peru, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. Credit: Silvia Izquierdo / AP

A week before Peru's presidential run-off vote, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski trailed in the polls and looked certain to lose.

But the 77-year-old neo-liberal economist pulled off a photo-finish win Thursday over right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori, and on July 28 he will succeed Ollanta Humala as Peru's president.

The son of a French teacher and a German Jewish doctor who fled the Nazis, Kuczynski was educated at Oxford and Princeton, and lived for years in exile in the US, where he worked as an investment banker.

He is related to the legendary French director Jean-Luc Godard, and his wife is a cousin of the Oscar-winning actress Jessica Lange. In his youth, he was a concert flautist, and he claims that Mick Jagger invited him to join the Rolling Stones on stage at a recent concert in Lima.

The former prime minister, two-time economy minister, and minister of energy is a strictly orthodox economic liberal - even if during the campaign he showed openness to ideas that he once demonized, including renegotiation of contracts with energy multinationals.

While he campaigned on his high-level experience, he had difficulty connecting with Peru's Andean poor. Tarred by some as a "gringo" from abroad, in the first round of the election he won just 21 per cent of the vote, far behind Fujimori's 40 per cent. Five years earlier, he made it only to third place - then supported Fujimori against the left-wing populist Humala.

Kuczynski has pledged to ease investment restrictions with an eye to bolstering Peru's economy, which he sees as too dependent on ore exports to China, and has called for the development of new market sectors, including agriculture and tourism.

But it wasn't his platform that won him the election, rather a unified opposition determined to keep Fujimori out of power. Leftist Veronica Mendoza, who finished third in the initial vote, threw her support behind a broad-based coalition backing Kuczynski.

During the campaign, the 41-year-old Fujimori argued that Kuczynski's advanced age was a hindrance. His answer: While for Fujimori the presidency would be her first job, for him, it was likely to be the last - and he was willing to give his all.

His promise: "I will work for Peruvians even if it's the last thing I do in my life."

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