Lima's first woman mayor faces a recall vote

Lima could find itself without a leader after Sunday if the Peruvian capital's estimated six million residents vote to recall its leftist mayor Susana Villaran, the first woman to hold the post.

Villaran, a former minister for women and ex-presidential candidate, is fighting for her political life in a campaign with no precedent in Lima.

"It is a political and ideological vendetta at the cost of the city's welfare," she told AFP.

A little more than two years into Villaran's four year term, critics accuse her of failing to undertake major works and of paralyzing development in Lima, which accounts for half the country's GDP and is its main engine of growth.

"The recall campaign is based on a perceived negative balance, but when the journey is only half done what can you show for it?" Villaran demanded.

"What is in play aren't concerns for an efficient Lima but to bring down a progressive administration of the left," she claimed.

The 63-year-old will lose her job if the "yes" vote prevails on Sunday, and will serve out a term ending in December 2014 if the "no" votes take it.

Villaran was elected mayor in October 2010 at the head of a coalition that shifted control of the city to the left for the first time in 27 years.

Publishing poll results is barred in the final week of the campaign, but experts predict the race will be close and that Villaran will survive.

She has the support of most parties across the ideological spectrum, from the conservative Popular Christian Party to President Ollanta Humala's Nationalist Party to groups on the left.

Lined up against her are the National Solidarity party of former center-right mayor Luis Castaneda and the social democratic Apra party of former president Alan Garcia.

"The winner will be the people of Lima, who will have a democratic opportunity to hold the authorities accountable," said Apra congressman Mauricio Mulder. "If they say 'yes', fine. If they say 'no', that's fine too."

Villaran contends her opponents want to cash in on the private sector's business with the city.

But unions affected by Villaran's reforms, like the public transport union, also want her out. The mayor has clashed repeatedly with the public transport workers and grocery store owners over her attempts to regulate them.

Anger with her administration is also palpable in Lima's slums, where 1.7 million people live.