LIMA, Peru – The daughter of an imprisoned former president led the race for the presidency of Peru late Sunday, hours after polling stations closed in a runoff as the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the Andean country.
With 42 percent of the vote, the conservative Keiko Fujimori had 52.9 percent of the vote, while the rural teacher, who has become a political newcomer, Pedro Castillo, according to official results, had 47 percent. This is Fujimori’s third running for president, a role her father held in the 1990s.
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 elections followed a statistical revision by the Peruvian government that more than doubled the COVID-19 death toll previously recognized by officials.
“Never before has a second ballot been so clearly divided as the current election,” said the Peruvian political scientist Fernando Tuesta on his Twitter account. In 2016, former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski defeated Fujimori with just 42,597 votes.
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.
“Well the truth is, I believe Peruvians are used to this kind of decision – having two options that leave a lot to be desired, but what do we do?” Said one voter, Paul Perez, at a school in the capital Lima, where he voted. “We are in a social, cultural situation that prevents us from anticipating all of this.”
Not only has the pandemic collapsed Peru’s medical and cemetery infrastructure, leaving millions unemployed, and exposing long-standing inequalities in the country, it has also deepened people’s distrust of the government for mishandling the COVID-19 response and a secret one Vaccination campaign for the well-connected has broken out into a national scandal.
Amid protests and allegations of corruption, the South American country went through three presidents in November. Analysts are now warning that this election could be another turning point for simmering frustration among the people and bring more political instability.
“I think the risk of social unrest is high in both situations. It’s a time bomb, ”said Claudia Navas, an analyst at global control Risks. “I think if Castillo wins, people who support Fujimori or support the continuation of the economic model to some extent might protest.”
But Navas said, “If Fujimori wins, a more complex scenario will develop because Castillo was able to create a discourse that has played well in some rural communities on the social divide and that the political and economic elites have Orchestrating things to stay in power and perpetuate social inequalities. “
Fears of further political instability were evident on Sunday.
President Francisco Sagasti said after the vote that candidates should respect the results and urge their supporters not to protest against the result. Meanwhile, the Left Castillo asked his supporters to remain calm before the results were published.
“Let’s wait for the official dates and we will speak out right now,” he said through a megaphone in the remote northern district of Tacabamba.
Dozens of Castillo’s supporters marched through the streets of Huancayo, the most important city in central Peru, in support of the candidate.
Fujimori stayed at her campaign headquarters in Lima, where she received a visit from a locally known Brazilian seer.
For Felipa Yanacris, who lives in Lima, the Peruvian presidential policy must be “desperately” turned upside down. “We want change, we’ve waited 30 years for change,” said Yanacris.
Fujimori voted in the affluent neighborhood of the capital, Lima, where she lives, and urged people to vote “without fear,” while Castillo called for calm as he and his parents cast his vote in rural Anguia.
The 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.
Its supporters include the wealthy players of the national soccer team and Mario Vargas Llosa, Peru’s most important author and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Vargas, who lost a presidential election to the candidate’s father, Alberto Fujimori, three decades ago, no longer referred to her as the “daughter of the dictator” in 2016, but as a representative of “freedom and progress”.
Keiko Fujimori himself was detained for a transplant exam but was later released. Her father ruled between 1990 and 2000 and is serving a 25-year prison sentence 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 illiterate farmers entered politics by leading a teachers’ strike. While his stance on nationalizing key sectors of the economy has waned, he continues to campaign to rewrite the constitution approved under the regime of Fujimori’s father.
Castillo’s supporters include former Bolivian President Evo Morales and former Uruguayan President José Mujica, who asked Castillo in a conversation on Facebook on Thursday not to “lapse into authoritarianism”.
Peru is the second largest copper exporter in the world and mining accounts for nearly 10% of its GDP and 60% of its exports. So Castillo’s first proposal to nationalize the country’s mining industry set alarm bells ringing among business leaders. But regardless of who is chosen to replace Sagasti on July 28, investors will remain skeptical.
“A victory for left-wing populist Pedro Castillo in the Peruvian presidential election on Sunday would likely cause local financial markets to tumble, but we doubt that investors would have much reason to cheer even if his rival Keiko Fujimori wins,” said Nikhil Sanghani. Emerging market economist at Capital Economics, wrote in an investor note on Friday.
“Fujimori is a controversial figure who is being investigated on charges of corruption. Given Peru’s recent history, it is not difficult to imagine that this could trigger impeachment proceedings, ”he said.