Peru’s contested presidential election had shown no “serious irregularities,” international election observers said Friday, as the country’s interim leader urged calm after five days of mounting tensions with no result from the cliffhanger poll.
Right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori faces imminent corruption charges if she loses to left-wing rival Pedro Castillo, who has already established himself as a victor.
Fujimori has alleged fraud and election authorities are reviewing her request to cancel about 200,000 votes, in a process expected to take several more days.
An Organization of American States election observation mission said it had “observed a positive electoral process” and cast doubt on claims of manipulation, but called on authorities to wait for voting issues to be resolved before declaring a winner.
“The mission has detected no serious irregularities,” said the OAS Provisional Election Observation Mission.
Tensions have risen in the days since the vote as supporters of both Castillo and Fujimori have gathered to call for their candidate to be anointed president.
Peru’s concierge, Francisco Sagasti, moved on Friday “to keep the country calm during difficult times. In addition, I contacted several people who… are in touch with both candidates.”
“My request was the same for both: lower the tension and wait for the official results,” he tweeted.
Peruvians voted Sunday for their fifth president in three years after a series of crises and corruption scandals that saw three different leaders in office in one week last November, the last being Sagasti.
Seven of the country’s last 10 leaders have been convicted or are under investigation for fraud.
Claims of ‘victory’
At the last count of Sunday’s runoff, rural school teacher and unionist Castillo led with 50.1 percent of the vote, compared to Fujimori’s 49.8 percent.
Castillo was some 60,000 votes in favor, but if Fujimori’s objection to the disputed ballots is passed, she could be declared the winner, delaying a corruption trial until the end of her term.
Prosecutors have said they would seek a 30-year prison sentence for Fujimori on charges of taking money from scandal-infested Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht to fund failed presidential bids in 2011 and 2016.
The 46-year-old denies the allegations. She has been in custody for 16 months.
On Thursday, a prosecutor requested protective custody for Fujimori, alleging she violated her parole by meeting a witness in the case. A decision is pending.
Castillo has received congratulations from two former presidents of Brazil – Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – ex-president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, and former Bolivian leader Evo Morales.
Among the incumbent leaders, he received best wishes from Nicaragua’s first lady and vice president Rosario Murillo, Bolivian leader Luis Arce and Argentine Alberto Fernandez.
The reports prompted the Peruvian government to “deliver a note of protest to the ambassadors of those countries in Peru, stating that the final results of the 2021 general election have not yet been officially announced by the electoral authorities,” the foreign ministry said. Business in Lima. Friday in a statement.
As with Peru’s three previous presidential elections, the vote count has been slow due to delays in delivering ballots from rural, jungle areas and abroad — home to one million of the country’s 25 million eligible voters.
Whoever wins will lead a country ravaged by recession and the world’s highest death rate from the coronavirus, with more than 187,000 deaths among its 33 million inhabitants.
Two million Peruvians lost their jobs during the pandemic and nearly a third now live in poverty, official figures show.
During the campaign, Castillo said Peru’s mining, oil and gas resources should be “nationalized”, while promising to raise taxes and increase state regulation.
Free-market defender Fujimori has tried to portray Castillo as a communist who would turn Peru into a new Venezuela or North Korea.
On Friday, Castillo’s economic adviser Pedro Francke told AFP that the candidate’s program was “nothing” like Venezuela’s.
However, there was a need for “higher taxes on large companies and mines,” he said.