SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 23 June 2021, Wednesday |

‘People have woken,’ says Peru’s Castillo, who is closing in on an election victory

On Thursday, socialist Pedro Castillo was on the verge of winning Peru’s presidential election, with a small lead of 63,000 votes over conservative competitor Keiko Fujimori, who has refused to surrender and has accused the poll of fraud despite the lack of evidence.

With 99.4 percent of ballots collected and only a tiny number of challenged ballots still being reviewed, Castillo has 50.2 percent of the vote and a 0.36 percentage point advantage.

The schoolteacher and political newcomer has earned strong grassroots support for plans to rewrite the constitution and divide mining wealth, ruffling the traditionally political and corporate elite in the copper-rich Andean nation.

“The people have awoken,” Castillo said from a Lima balcony late Thursday, urging residents to reclaim the country for all Peruvians during a bitter election campaign.

Fujimori, who is facing further court challenges on Thursday, has refused to accept and is attempting to have approximately 500,000 votes annulled, which she claims are tainted.

“Until the last vote,” she declared on Twitter, “we will continue to defend the legitimate right of millions of Peruvians.”

There is no proof of suspicious conduct, according to Castillo’s Peru Libre party. The election, according to independent observers, went off without a hitch.

The ethics tribunal of the National Jury of Elections (JNE), the body charged with overseeing the legality of the electoral process, said on Thursday that throwing doubt on the results without evidence was “irresponsible.”

Washington said that electoral authorities should be allowed to look into any fraud allegations.

“We look forward to working with the duly elected candidate,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said.

Peru, which saw three presidents in a week last year amid political scandals and protests, has been hit by the world’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak by deaths per capita. The world no.2 copper producer posted its worst economic plunge in three decades last year.

PRESIDENT-ELECT?

Many in Latin America, on the other hand, were already congratulating Castillo on his victory.

The first foreign leader to congratulate Castillo was Argentina’s President Alfredo Fernandez, who said on Twitter that he had phoned the “President-elect” and indicated a desire to work together for the good of Latin America.

Peru’s current interim administration stated in a statement that it has filed a “notice of protest” to Argentina over the remarks, despite the fact that the country’s electoral office has yet to publicly publish the final results.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is generally likely to run against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in next year’s election, said Castillo had dealt a blow to conservatism in the area.

“The result of the Peruvian polls is symbolic and symbolizes another step forward in our loved Latin America’s populist battle,” he stated.

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales also congratulated Castillo on his “win,” describing him as a “soul brother and fight buddy.”

LEGAL STAKES

Castillo’s slim advantage over Fujimori is larger than the 0.24 percent margin by which Fujimori lost the 2016 presidential election to Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

“At the time, Fujimori did not demand a recount, but given the political and legal stakes, she may do so this time,” said Eileen Gavin, chief analyst of Verisk Maplecroft’s Global Markets and Americas division.

Fujimori spent over a year in jail pending a trial over accusations she accepted illegal campaign contributions when she first ran for the presidency in 2011. She has denied the allegations and called them political persecution.

Fujimori’s bail was revoked and she was returned to detention pending the trial on Thursday, according to prosecutor Jose Domingo Perez, who claimed she had been in contact with a witness.

A judge will hear the request in the coming days. Fujimori’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

“Prosecutors have the right to pursue her imprisonment, but people will view it as an attempt to tamper with the electoral process,” said Ernesto de la Jara, a Peruvian human rights lawyer who opposes Fujimori.

If she wins the presidential election, her case will be put on hold until the conclusion of her presidency.