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Left-wing Pedro Castillo declared himself the winner of the Peruvian presidential election, although the electoral authorities on Wednesday have yet to announce a winner in his race against populist right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori, who claims half a million votes are still in the game.
Counting 99 percent of the vote in Sunday’s presidential poll, rural school teacher and union leader Castillo retained a tiny 50.2 percent lead, compared to Fujimori’s 49.7 percent.
Late Wednesday, Fujimori asked the National Electoral Tribunal (JNE) to annul the results of 802 polling stations, the equivalent of 200,000 votes.
She also asked for another 300,000 votes to be reviewed, so “there are half a million votes in the game now,” she said at a press conference.
Fujimori, the daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, led the preliminary vote count, but Castillo was gaining momentum.
After overtaking her, Fujimori declared “irregularities” and “signs of fraud,” telling reporters that she had evidence of “a clear intent to boycott the will of the people.”
Both candidates have previously agreed to respect the outcome.
Peruvian authorities rejected any possibility of counting fraud, as did the Organization of American States, which said the count was “in line with official procedures.”
During Fujimori’s speech, Castillo thanked his rallied supporters for his support. “Let’s not provoke those who want to see this country in chaos. Therefore, we call for peace and tranquility, ”he tweeted.
Castillo said earlier that party observers considered his triumph to be a decided one, even though the authorities refrained from announcing the result.
“On behalf of the Peruvian people,” Castillo thanked “the embassies and governments from Latin America and other countries” for congratulating him on his “victory”.
Benefit “also for Hispanics who want to live in social justice!” tweeted Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president.
#PedroCastillo, brother of the soul and ally in the struggle, you are the pride of patriotic social and professional movements.
Congratulations on this victory, the victory of the people of Peru, but also the people of Latin America who want to live in social justice! pic.twitter.com/QB2H4osjOu
– Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) June 9, 2021
Castillo is currently ahead of roughly 79,000 votes, but with ballots still being counted and votes being contested by both sides, the process will likely take 10 to 12 days to fully resolve the issue, a spokesman for the counting body ONPE told AFP.
As in the previous three presidential elections in Peru, which were also held in a tough regime, the end of the count was slow due to delays in the delivery of ballots to Lima from the rural and jungles of Peru, as well as from abroad, where the country’s one million inhabitants 25 millions of eligible voters live.
Fujimori received the majority of the expatriate votes counted, but Castillo is widely popular with rural voters.
Bridging this difference for Fujimori “will be very difficult because more votes must be counted in Peru than abroad,” analyst Hugo Otero told AFP.
Both Castillo and Fujimori declared after the elections that they would respect democracy and form governments that would lead to economic stability.
Late Wednesday, Castillo supporters gathered outside the ONPE counting office in downtown Lima, while a crowd of Fujimori supporters gathered in a large Lima park to condemn the vote “rigged”.
Three presidents in a week
The Peruvians voted Sunday for their fifth president in three years after a series of crises and corruption scandals. three different managers in the office in one week last year.
For Fujimori, the stakes are higher than just power: she faces more than 30 years in prison if she is found guilty of receiving money from scandalous incomes. Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht will fund presidential elections in 2011 and 2016. She has already spent 16 months in pre-trial detention.
According to Peruvian law, if she wins the election, the charges will be suspended until her term expires, but if she is defeated, she could be brought to trial.
The Peruvian military has pledged to “respect the will of the people at the ballot box,” even as calls for the military to keep Castillo from coming to power were circulated on social media.
Whoever wins will lead a nation hit by a recession and the world’s tallest coronavirus mortality rate, more than 186,000 deaths among a 33 million population.
According to official figures, two million Peruvians lost their jobs during the pandemic, and almost a third are now living in poverty.
Peruvians will also strive for stability, with seven of their last 10 leaders either convicted or under investigation for bribery charges.
Fujimori supports the neoliberal economic model of tax cuts and incentives for private activity to create jobs.
Castillo pledged to nationalize vital industries, raise taxes and tighten government regulation.
Fujimori warned that Peru is at risk of becoming a new Venezuela or North Korea under its rival, while Castillo pointed to the history of the Fujimori family’s corruption scandals.
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