LIMA (Reuters) - The mayor of Peru's capital appeared to survive a recall vote on Sunday, three exit polls showed, narrowly defeating traditional power brokers who tried to oust her from power in Lima before a presidential election in 2016.
An Ipsos exit poll showed 52.6 percent of voters want mayor Susana Villaran to finish her four-year term, compared with 47.4 percent who voted for her removal.
Other exit polls by the survey firms Datum and CPI showed similar results, but Villaran's opponents did not concede defeat and a recount is possible as the election was close.
Official results will be announced on Monday.
"Today Lima won, we all won," Villaran said in a speech after the exit polls were released.
Her showing in the polls reassured fellow left-of-center politicians. They viewed the recall campaign as driven by conservative parties jockeying for sway in the 2016 presidential election, when President Ollanta Humala cannot run for a second straight term.
Lima, with a third of Peru's population, often drives the outcomes of presidential elections.
"Congratulations, Susana. We are proud to have bet as always for decency and democratic consolidation," former President Alejandro Toledo said on Twitter.
Villaran, the first woman ever elected as mayor of Lima and the first leftist to hold that office in decades, spent months defending her two-year old administration as an alliance of conservative politicians, evangelical leaders and informal food and transportation workers said she was too inept to be allowed to finish her term.
Only a week ago, polls showed she would lose the recall vote in the city of 8 million - a reminder of the volatile nature of voter sentiment in Peru.
In the final days of campaigning, Villaran warned that big public works projects and private investment in concessions would face further delays if she were forced from office.
Lima, which was the base of the Spanish empire in the Americas and has hundreds of pre-Columbian ruins, needs infrastructure investments of about $37 billion, according to some estimates.
Villaran had angered opponents by emphasizing gay rights and trying to rein in the vast and largely unregulated informal economy.
"This will allow Lima to deepen and accelerate the reforms we've been working on for the past two years so that our city becomes more orderly, modern and just," Villaran said.
She also promised to address the needs of Lima's most vulnerable residents after as the recall campaign exposed strong opposition to her administration in poor districts where residents are demanding roads, water and sewage services.
(Reporting By Marco Aquino and Omar Mariluz, Writing by Mitra Taj; Editing by Terry Wade and Christopher Wilson)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp