LIMA, Peru – The daughter of an imprisoned former president led the race for Peru’s presidency on Sunday evening, hours after the polls closed in a staged run-off as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit the Andean country.
With 42% of the vote, conservative Keiko Fujimori obtained 52.9% of the vote, while Pedro Castillo, a rural teacher who became a novice in politics, obtained 47%, according to official results. This is Fujimori’s third run for president, a role his father held in the 1990s.
The polarizing populist candidates have pledged coronavirus vaccines for all and other strategies to alleviate the health emergency that has killed more than 180,000 people in Peru and pushed millions into poverty. The election follows a statistical review by the Peruvian government that more than doubled the death toll from COVID-19 previously recognized by authorities.
“Never has a second round been so clearly divided as the current election,” Peruvian political scientist Fernando Tuesta said on his Twitter account. In 2016, former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski defeated Fujimori by just 42,597 votes.
Voters across Peru, where voting is compulsory, went to the polls throughout Sunday on a set schedule intended to minimize long queues. No disturbances were reported at the polling stations, which even opened in San Miguel del Ene, a remote village in a cocaine-producing region where a massacre two weeks ago resulted in the deaths of 16 people.
Pre-election polls indicated that the candidates were practically tied before the second round. In the first ballot, with 18 candidates, neither received more than 20% support and both were strongly opposed by sectors of Peruvian society.
“Well, the truth is I believe Peruvians are used to this type of decision – ending up with two options that leave a lot to be desired, but what do we do? »Declared a voter, Paul Perez, in a school in the capital Lima where he was voting. “We are in a social and cultural situation which limits us from anticipating all of this.
The pandemic has not only collapsed Peru’s medical infrastructure and cemeteries, left millions unemployed and exposed long-standing inequalities in the country, it has also deepened people’s mistrust of the government. because he mismanaged the COVID-19 response and a covert vaccination campaign for the well-connected in a national scandal.
Amid protests and corruption allegations, the South American country went through three presidents in November. Now analysts warn this election could be another tipping point for people’s latent frustrations and bring more political instability.
“I think in both situations the risk of social unrest is high. It’s a ticking time bomb, ”said Claudia Navas, analyst at global firm Control Risks. “I think if Castillo wins, people who support Fujimori or support the pursuit of the business model to some extent can protest.”
But Navas said “a more complex scenario will evolve if Fujimori wins because Castillo has been able to create a discourse that has played well in some rural communities regarding the social divide and saying that the political and economic elites have orchestrated things to stay in power and maintain social inequalities.
Fears of greater political instability were evident on Sunday.
After the vote, President Francisco Sagasti said candidates should respect the results and ask their supporters to refrain from demonstrating against the results. Meanwhile, leftist Castillo urged supporters ahead of the results to be calm.
“Let’s wait for the official data, and we will come out to make a decision then,” he said over a megaphone in the remote district of Tacabamba, in the north.
Dozens of Castillo supporters marched in favor of the candidate through the streets of Huancayo, the most important city in central Peru.
Fujimori remained at her campaign headquarters in Lima, where she was visited by a locally known Brazilian seer.
For Felipa Yanacris, a resident of Lima, Peruvian presidential policy is “desperately” in need of a reshuffle. “We want change, we’ve been waiting 30 years for change,” said Yanacris.
Fujimori voted in the wealthy district of the capital Lima where she lives, urging people to vote “fearlessly”, while Castillo called for calm while voting alongside her parents in rural Anguia.
The former congressman pledged various bonuses to people, including a one-time payment of $ 2,500 to each family with at least one COVID-19 victim. She also proposed to distribute 40% of a tax for the extraction of minerals, oil or gas to families who live near these areas.
His supporters include the wealthy players of the national football team and Mario Vargas Llosa, the greatest Peruvian author and winner of a Nobel Prize for Literature. Vargas, who lost a presidential election three decades ago to the candidate’s father, Alberto Fujimori, has gone from calling her the “daughter of the dictator” in 2016 to seeing her as the representative of “freedom and progress. “.
Keiko Fujimori herself was jailed as part of a corruption investigation although she was later released. His father ruled between 1990 and 2000 and is serving a 25-year sentence for bribery and murder of 25 people. She promised to release him if he wins.
Castillo was until recently a rural schoolteacher in the third poorest district of the country, in the heart of the Andes. The son of illiterate peasants enters politics by leading a strike of teachers. As his stance on nationalizing key sectors of the economy has softened, he remains determined to rewrite the constitution that was approved under the regime of Fujimori’s father.
Among Castillo’s supporters are former Bolivian President Evo Morales and former Uruguayan President José Mujica, who, in a conversation via Facebook, told Castillo on Thursday “not to fall into authoritarianism”.
Peru is the second largest copper exporter in the world and mining accounts for almost 10% of its GDP and 60% of its exports. Castillo’s initial proposal to nationalize the country’s mining industry therefore sounded alarm bells among business leaders. But regardless of who is chosen to succeed Sagasti on July 28, investors will remain nervous.
“A victory for left-wing populist Pedro Castillo in the Peruvian presidential election on Sunday would likely tip local financial markets, but we doubt investors will have anything to celebrate even if his rival Keiko Fujimori wins,” Nikhil Sanghani, emerging market economist at Capital Economics wrote a note to investors on Friday.
“Fujimori is a controversial figure who is under investigation for corruption. Given Peru’s recent history, it is not difficult to imagine that this could trigger impeachment proceedings, ”he said.
To pursue NBC Latino at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.