Peru’s Election Between Pedro Castillo And Keiko Fujimori Is Too Close To Call : NPR

Supporters of the presidential candidate Pedro Castillo celebrate on Monday in Lima, Peru, one day after the presidential election, partial results in front of his election headquarters. Guadalupe Pardo / AP Hide caption

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Guadeloupe Pardo / AP

Supporters of the presidential candidate Pedro Castillo celebrate on Monday in Lima, Peru, one day after the presidential election, partial results in front of his election headquarters.

Guadeloupe Pardo / AP

LIMA, Peru (AP) – A political freshman rural teacher and the daughter of an imprisoned former president exchanged leadership in a close race for the Peruvian presidency in a runoff election on Monday as the coronavirus pandemic hit the Andean country still haunted.

With 94% of the votes cast, the left Pedro Castillo had 50.07% of the vote, while the conservative Keiko Fujimori had 49.92% according to official results. This is Fujimori’s third running for president, a role her father held in the 1990s.

Figures released by Peru’s electoral authority, the National Office of Electoral Processes, include almost all of the votes cast near the country’s election processing centers. The agency was still waiting for votes from remote rural areas and abroad.

“Nobody can say for sure who will win at this point,” said Fernando Tuesta, political scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and former Peruvian electoral chief, a local radio station. In 2016, former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski defeated Fujimori with just 42,597 votes.

Fujimori’s support has been expected from voters in the capital, Lima and other urban areas, while Castillo’s supporters live in rural communities.

None of the candidates made a statement on Monday. Castillo left the rural Andean district of Tacabamba early to travel to Lima.

The polarizing populist candidates have promised coronavirus vaccines for everyone and other strategies to alleviate the health emergency that has killed more than 180,000 people and pushed millions into poverty in Peru. The election followed a statistical revision by the Peruvian government that more than doubled the COVID-19 death toll previously recognized by officials.

Voters across Peru, where voting is compulsory, went to the polls on a set schedule throughout Sunday to minimize long lines. No riot was reported at polling stations, even in San Miguel del Ene, a remote village in a cocaine producing area, where a massacre resulted in 16 deaths two weeks ago.

Polls before the elections showed that the candidates practically went to the runoff election. In the first round of 18 candidates, none received more than 20% support and both were heavily opposed by parts of Peruvian society.

“The candidate who becomes (president), either Keiko or Pedro, the people, the only thing we have to do is accept it, but they better rule well,” said Lucia Carrion, a street vendor in Lima. “There is so much corruption. One of them has to stop so much corruption as here in Peru.”

The pandemic has not only strained Peru’s medical and cemetery infrastructure, made millions unemployed and exposed long-term inequalities in the country. It has also deepened people’s distrust of the government as it mishandled the response to COVID-19 and broke a secret vaccination campaign for the well-connected people into a national scandal.

Amid protests and allegations of corruption, the South American country went through three presidents in November. Some analysts warn that this election could mark another turning point for simmering frustration among the people and lead to more political instability.

President Francisco Sagasti said after the vote that candidates should respect the results and urge their supporters not to protest against the result. Fujimori urged her supporters to be cautious because “the margin is so small”, while Castillo called for a review of all ballots to “guarantee the true popular will of the Peruvian people”.

Fujimori, a former congresswoman, has promised people various bonuses, including a one-time payment of $ 2,500 to every family with at least one COVID-19 victim. She has also proposed distributing 40% of a mineral, oil or gas mining tax to families who live near these areas.

Keiko Fujimori himself was detained for a transplant exam but was later released. Her father, Alberto Fujimori, ruled between 1990 and 2000 and is serving a 25-year prison term for corruption and the killing of 25 people. She promised to rescue him if she won.

Until recently, Castillo was a country teacher in the third poorest district in the country, deep in the Andes. The son of uneducated peasants entered politics by leading a teachers’ strike. While his stance on nationalizing key sectors of the economy has waned, he remains determined to rewrite the constitution approved under the regime of Fujimori’s father.

Both candidates are against abortion and same-sex marriage.

Peru is the second largest copper exporter in the world and mining accounts for nearly 10% of its GDP and 60% of its exports. Castillo’s original proposal to nationalize the country’s mining industry raised alarm bells among business leaders. But regardless of who is chosen to replace Sagasti on July 28, investors will remain skeptical.


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