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Peru election: Fujimori cries foul as she falls behind in count

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Peru's presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori reacts at a press conference the day after a run-off election, in Lima, Peru June 7, 2021.

image copyrightReuters

The right-wing candidate in Peru’s presidential election, Keiko Fujimori, alleges there have been “signs of fraud” in Sunday’s run-off election.

“There is a clear intention to boycott the popular will,” she said without offering detailed evidence.

She made the allegation after her left-wing rival, Pedro Castillo, pulled past her in the vote count.

With 96.8% of the votes counted, Mr Castillo has a razor-thin lead of 0.5 percentage points.

Peru's presidential candidate Pedro Castillo gestures to supporters the day after a run-off election, in Lima, Peru June 7, 2021

image copyrightReuters

In a news conference, Ms Fujimori alleged that there had been a “strategy by Peru Libre [Free Peru, the party of Mr Castillo] to distort and delay the results which reflect the popular will”.

Peru Libre rejected the accusation, tweeting that it had “never resorted to electoral fraud, to the contrary, we’ve always been victims of it”.

Unpredictable finish

After accusing her rival’s party of fraud, Ms Fujimori struck a more optimistic note, saying that the tables could still turn ones the votes from Peruvians abroad were counted.

With less than 4% of votes left to be counted, those still missing are mainly from remote rural areas in Peru and from Peruvians who cast their ballots in consulates across the world.

Mr Castillo has strong support in rural areas but Ms Fujimori has done well with Peruvians living outside their homeland, making the final result extremely hard to predict.

Whoever wins will have a tough task ahead bringing together a polarised nation which has seen its economy crumble as it was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

After changing the methodology of how it registers Covid deaths, Peru became the country with the highest per capita death rate from coronavirus in the world.

In an attempt to woo those hit by the pandemic, Ms Fujimori said that if elected, her government would give 10,000 soles ($2,600; $1,830) to families who had lost a relative to Covid-19.

But many Peruvians fear that if she wins, the country’s “old guard” could return to power. Ms Fujimori is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, who is in jail serving a 25-year-sentence for crimes including corruption and human rights abuses.

She has said that is she is elected she will pardon her father, who remains a deeply divisive figure – praised by some for his fight against Shining Path guerrillas and denounced by others for abuses carried out during his time in power, including forced sterilisations of indigenous women.

Meanwhile, there are also those who fear that Pedro Castillo, a primary teacher who was little known before winning the first round of the election, could destabilise Peru’s economy.

Supporters of Peru's presidential candidate Pedro Castillo carry an oversized Peruvian flag on a street a day after a run-off election, in Lima, Peru June 7, 2021

image copyrightReuters

The left-wing trade unionist campaigned on a promise to help the poor by introducing higher taxes on powerful mining firms in this copper-producing nation.

On Monday, the Peruvian currency fell to an all-time low as Mr Castillo overtook Ms Fujimori in the vote count.

He has also said that he wants to rewrite the constitution “to end all inequalities” and has promised to make human rights a priority.

Whoever becomes president will also have to contend with a Congress in which 10 parties squabble for control and which in the past has toppled presidents.

Over the past four years, Peru has had four leaders, one of whom resigned over a vote-buying scandal, another who was impeached, a third who stepped down after less than a week in the post and a fourth who is the current interim president.

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