Peruvian socialist candidate Pedro Castillo claimed victory in the presidential election on Tuesday after clinging to a narrow lead as the long ballot ended, though his right-wing rival vowed to fight the result and has yet to yield.
Castillo finished the 44,058 vote count for Keiko Fujimori, who has made allegations of fraud with little evidence and has sought to have several votes annulled. The results of the June 6 vote have not been formally announced by the election authorities, but Castillo praised the victory on Twitter.
“A new era has arrived,” Castillo wrote, alongside a photo of himself with arms raised, the word ‘President’ in big letters and his campaign slogan: ‘No more poor in a rich country’.
He also updated his Twitter profile with “President-elect of the Republic of Peru (2021-2026)”.
The abrupt rise of the 51-year-old former teacher has shocked Peru’s political and business elite and could have a major impact on the vital mining industry in the world’s No. 2 copper producer, with Castillo planning sharp tax hikes for the sector.
Fujimori, who addressed supporters at a rally in downtown Lima on Tuesday, pledged to continue fighting and “defending Peru’s democracy.” She hoped the results would come her way once the ballots her party wants to cancel had been checked.
“Today a result has come out, yes, a result of the ONPE census (election body), but the most important thing is the evaluation of the ballot boxes,” she said. “We trust the authorities yes, but we rely more on the popular will.”
Castillo’s Free Peru party has dismissed allegations of fraud and international observers in Lima have stated that the elections were transparent.
Will of the people
Castillo had vowed earlier in the day that he would not allow rivals to deny the will of the people and overturn the election, prompting supporters from both sides to take to the streets in recent days.
The son of farmers, Castillo had 50.125% of the vote, while Fujimori, the eldest daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, had 49.875%.
Castillo told reporters at his party’s headquarters in Lima that he would respect election authorities and urged them to end the uncertainty by quickly confirming the result.
“We will not allow an oppressed people to be discriminated against for years to come,” Castillo said. “Things have been put on the table democratically and there has to be a democratic way out.”
Election observers said it could take days or even weeks for authorities to deliberate the legal challenges and announce a winner.
Peruvians who voted for Castillo have grown impatient.
Ricarte Vasquez, 32, originally from northern Cajamarca, called the standoff “shameful” when he sold a baked sweet potato and yuca breakfast snack at a busy intersection in Lima where minibuses pick up passengers.
“If Keiko had won, it would have been decided already,” Vasquez said. “I voted not only for a change in government, but also for a change in the country.”
Vasquez said he hoped the situation for casual workers like himself, many of whom were hit hard during a months-long lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, would change with Castillo as president.
Luz Maria Quispe, 37, originally from Cusco, said she also voted for Castillo and did not believe the fraud allegations.
“We want this change for Peru,” she said, standing in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary in a park in Lima, where she and the elderly woman she cared for had stopped to pray.
“What I ask Senora Keiko Fujimori is that she now accept defeat: the people have decided.”
Quispe said she had studied to become a nurse but had to quit because she could no longer afford the tuition.
Socialist Castillo has provoked rural and poorer voters who feel abandoned in the country’s economic growth.
His rise could herald a left turn in Brazil, Chile and Colombia, who will vote for new leaders this year and next.