Peruvian socialists lead close election as battle builds for result

Peruvian socialists lead close election as battle builds for result

Peruvian socialist Pedro Castillo held a slim lead in a polarized presidential election on Wednesday, with a battle brewing for the outcome that could spark weeks of political wrangling, market volatility and deeper divisions.

Castillo, the son of illiterate farmers who rocked the political elite of the Andean nation and garnered huge support from the rural poor, had 50.2% with 99.8% of the votes processed, just 0.4 percentage point in front of the right Keiko Fujimori.

Fujimori, the heir to a powerful political family, has, however, raised unsubstantiated allegations that Castillo supporters attempted to steal votes, which the left-wing party strongly denied. International election observers and experts said the vote went smoothly.

“Today we present all the evidence of irregularities,” Luis Galarreta, the vice presidential candidate on Fujimori’s ticket, told Peruvian radio on Wednesday, adding that the party was preparing a case with lawyers.

The allegations, with some echoes of legal wrangling after last year’s U.S. election, could spark weeks of confusion and tension, amid a polarized election cycle that has divided Peruvians, with high-income citizens supporting the right-wing and low-income candidate. those who support Castillo.

On Tuesday, hundreds of voters from both sides demonstrated outside Peru’s electoral office against perceived irregularities in the vote counting process. Castillo called on his supporters to “defend the vote”.

There are also some 300,000 disputed votes, which will need to be examined in more detail by an electoral jury, a process that will take several days and could tip the scales.

The world is no. 2 copper producer saw three presidents in a week last year amid political scandals and protests, was hit by the world’s deadliest Covid-19 outbreak and recorded its worst economic plunge in three decades Last year.

“Tightest elections”

Fujimori had narrowed the gap slightly overnight as nearly all overseas votes in favor of the Tory candidate entered, but not enough to contain Castillo’s lead as she had hoped, leaving the votes behind disputed as his last potential reprieve.

“It is unlikely that at this point Fujimori will overtake Castillo,” said David Sulmont, professor of sociology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and former head of their voting unit.

“It is one of the tightest elections in the country,” he added. “The margin can continue to vary, but I think Castillo will be the winner.”

The Peruvian sol currency rose more than 1% on Wednesday after falling earlier in the day, while the Lima stock index (.SPBLPSPT) fell 3.2%, with mining stocks among the most affected.

A victory for Castillo, a teacher who was the surprise winner of the first-round vote in April, would mark a major breakthrough for the Latin American left amid growing discontent with the poverty and inequalities that have been accentuated by the pandemic of Covid-19.

On Tuesday night, Castillo came close to claiming victory. “We already have the official count of the party, where the people won this fight,” he told his supporters, referring to an unofficial vote count led by his party, Free Peru.

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales, an iconic leftist whose Socialist Party is now in power in that country, also congratulated Castillo on his “victory” in a Twitter post, calling him a “soul brother and companion in the struggle. “.

Fujimori is on his third attempt to become president, having been a finalist in the last two cycles. In 2016, it lost by a margin of 0.24 percentage point.

Castillo has scared the markets with proposals to redistribute mineral wealth, reformulate the constitution, and raise taxes on mining companies, a key source of income for the Andean country, although he has sought to moderate his tone in recent years. days.

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