Peru's electoral board rejects appeals from barred candidates

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru's electoral board on Monday rejected appeals from disqualified presidential hopefuls Julio Guzman and Cesar Acuna for reinstatement in next month's elections, closing the door to a reversal of its controversial ruling. The National Jury of Elections voted 3-2 to bar Guzman after he rose to second place in the polls because his party did not comply with electoral procedures when selecting him as a candidate. Guzman, a centrist technocrat who tapped voter frustration with traditional politicians, said last week he would ask local courts to intervene in the dispute, which he called fraud. Acuna, a wealthy former governor who had been polling in fourth place, was disqualified from the April 10 elections for giving cash to voters while campaigning. Acuna said last week he would accept the electoral board's decision. The unprecedented move to toss two leading candidates from the race just a month before the elections has stoked opposition to longtime frontrunner Keiko Fujimori and carved out space for investor favorite Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to challenge her. Kuczynski, a former prime minister and World Bank economist, was seen beating Fujimori by one point if the two face off in a second-round vote, according to an Ipsos poll published in local daily El Comercio on Monday. Kuczynski climbed five points to garner 14 percent of voter intent without Guzman and Acuna in the race.. Fujimori, the 40-year-old daughter of imprisoned ex-president Alberto Fujimori, now has the backing of 32 percent of voters but is not expected to garner the absolute majority needed to win outright. Thousands of Peruvians marched in downtown Lima on Friday to demand the electoral board bar Fujimori from the race. (Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Bernadette Baum)