NewsPedro Castillo approaches victory in Peru in polarized elections

Pedro Castillo approaches victory in Peru in polarized elections

Socialist hopeful Pedro Castillo held a small but steady lead in the second round of Peru’s presidential election on Wednesday, while his right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori plans to launch a legal battle over thousands of contested votes as the end of the count draws near.

The difference is just 0.4%, or 71,774 votes. With 98.3% of the tally sheets, Castillo, the surprise of the elections in the polarized mining country, reached 50.2% of the votes in Sunday’s elections. Meanwhile, Fujimori obtained 49.79%, according to the electoral office ONPE.

The count, which progresses by the dropper, still does not give an official winner. But Castillo is already running as the winner of the tight ballot.

In a message to followers at the headquarters of his Peru Libre party in downtown Lima, Castillo said that his observers take the presidential victory in the second round for granted, urged his followers not to fall into provocations and even thanked greetings “for his victory “sent by Latin American countries.

“We will be a government that respects democracy, the current Constitution and we will create a government with financial and economic stability,” Castillo said Tuesday night from a balcony before hundreds of followers.

“I want to express on behalf of the Peruvian people the personalities of different countries that this afternoon have been expressing greetings to the Peruvian people,” he added, referring to messages from “embassies and governments of Latin America and other countries.”

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales congratulated Castillo on Wednesday for his “victory” in Peru’s presidential ballot over Fujimori.

Morales, a leftist indigenous (2006-2018), called Castillo “brother of the soul and comrade in struggle” from Twitter, and told him that “you are the pride of patriotic social and professional movements.”

In the same way, he added “congratulations on this victory, which is the victory of the Peruvian people, but also of the Latin American people who want to live with social justice!”

In the same way, he added “many congratulations on this victory, which is the victory of the Peruvian people, but also of the Latin American people who want to live with social justice!”

Voting abroad is key for Fujimori

As in the last three presidential elections in Peru, almost as tight as the current one, the official count was remembered while waiting for the preserves of rural, jungle and foreign areas, where almost a million voters are registered.

In the next few hours, the margin between Fujimori and Castillo may narrow as votes from abroad continue to be counted. According to the ONPE foreign office, three countries account for almost 60% of Peruvian voters: the United States, Chile and Spain.

As 64% of the polling stations in the United States and 81% of those in Chile are already counted, Fujimori’s fate depends largely on Spain, where 152,000 Peruvians could vote, since only 3% of these polling stations have been counted. .

Three out of four Peruvians supported Fujimori in the United States and in Chile he obtained 56% of the votes compared to 44% for Castillo. Abroad, Fujimori has so far obtained 66.48% of the votes compared to 33.51% of his rival, with 89.4% of these polls scrutinized.

However, analysts do not believe that these votes are enough for Fujimori to win the election. “Fujimori is unlikely to overtake Castillo at this point,” David Sulmont, a sociology professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and former head of its voting unit, told Reuters.

“Overcoming this difference is going to be very difficult, there must be more votes to be counted in Peru than abroad,” analyst Hugo Otero told AFP.

The analyst alludes to the fact that the ONPE still has to count just under 2% of the polling stations in Peru, the majority of remote areas that can contribute more votes to Castillo than those that are missing from abroad.

In Peru the scrutiny has made it clear that in this contest there is not only a political struggle, but also between Lima and the “deep Peru”, postponed for centuries and badly hit by the economic recession caused by the pandemic.

In the Andean region of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire, Castillo won 83% of the votes, and in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, 89%. In these areas the Quechua and Aymara populations predominate, respectively.

“I think Castillo is going to win, but we have to wait until the ONPE gives the official result,” Otero said.

Fujimori will fight in court

At the close of the vote on Sunday, the daughter of the imprisoned former president Alberto Fujimori led the vote count but as the count progressed Castillo was on her heels to lead her by tenths – up to more than 100,000 votes difference on Tuesday in the night-.

The electoral authorities will have to review some records with technical irregularities, errors in completion or with contested votes. The process has received complaints of alleged fraud on the part of both candidates, especially Fujimori, who made accusations about “table fraud.”

According to the ONPE, there are 457 records contested to the electoral jury. Each act has between 200 and 300 voters.

Citizen participation has been estimated at 74.7% of the electorate.

“Today we are presenting all the evidence of the irregularities,” said Luis Galarreta, the vice presidential candidate for Fujimori’s presidential formula.

The complaint of “evidence of fraud” in the voting centers was made by Fujimori herself, fueling the electoral process and threatening to delay the count and the official announcement of the winner.

The ONPE denies the possibility of fraud, as does the Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS), which described the process as normal and transparent.

“Lies, lies, more of the same: Fujimorism,” the headline of a statement from Castillo’s party issued early this Wednesday, stating that “the old practice of Fujimorism on electoral fraud is not a secret.”

Among other things, Castillo’s party recalls “the revenge of Mrs. Keiko Fujimori for not accepting the results in 2016”, when she lost to Pedro Pablo Kuczynski by a narrow margin (50.12% vs. 49.88%). That challenge to the minutes of the ONPE took 7 days to declare his rival officially president of Peru.

On Tuesday, hundreds of voters for both candidates demonstrated in front of Peru’s electoral office against the perception of irregularities in the vote counting process.

As Castillo supporters begin to claim victory, some 200 Fujimori supporters, mostly from Lima’s middle and upper classes, gathered in front of the ONPE headquarters Tuesday afternoon to denounce “fraud.”

The uncertainty is accentuated in a country mired in political upheavals that led to four presidents since 2018, three of them in five days last November.

Castillo has made investors nervous because he plans to rewrite the Constitution to strengthen the role of the state and keep more of the profits from the mining companies.

During the campaign for the second round of voting, Castillo moderated his speech, but local financial markets have remained agitated and the currency, the sun, has hit record lows against the dollar.

With information from AFP, EFE and Reuters

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