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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Explained: Why are there protests over presidential election results in Peru?

While election results have kept getting delayed, supporters of both Castillo and Fujimori have been taking out competing rallies. Once a winner is announced, the inauguration is scheduled to take place on July 28.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: July 9, 2021 7:42:05 am
People march in support of presidential candidate Pedro Castillo exactly one month after June 06 presidential elections in Lima, Peru, Tuesday, July 6, 2021. (AP Photo)

Thousands of protesters gathered in Peru’s capital Lima Tuesday to express frustration with the delay in announcing results of the presidential election which took place a month ago.

The June 6 runoff poll — which pitted leftwing candidate Pedro Castillo against conservative Keiko Fujimori — was held after the two emerged as frontrunners in an acrimonious general election in April in which a total of 18 candidates sparred for the top job.

Results of the runoff, whose fairness has been endorsed by the US and the EU, are now stuck because Fujimori – who won 49.9% of the votes – has refused to acknowledge Castillo’s slender lead of 44,000 votes.

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Why is it taking so long for Peru to announce its new president?

According to Peru’s election officials, after all the ballots have been counted, the union leader Castillo has garnered enough votes to beat Fujimori, the daughter of former rightwing President Alberto Fujimori. In the election, both candidates were seen as having extreme views, and the electorate ended up becoming deeply polarised.

Castillo, a political outsider born to peasant farmers, channelled support from the country’s rural and Indigenous population against ruling elites, while Fujimori had the backing of pro-business groups, as well as former military leaders. Many Peruvians – who have bitter memories of the bloody Shining Path communist insurgency of the 1980s – have expressed worry about Castillo’s links with more radical leftist politicians, given a top party leader’s praise for Venezuela’s authoritarian leader Nicolas Maduro for consolidating power.

Despite Castillo being in the lead as per election officials, Fujimori has made claims of election fraud, and has asked that up to 2 lakh votes be thrown out – mostly from rural and Indigenous areas where Castillo is popular. A highly divided country has resulted in many supporting Fujimori’s claims, with 31% believing them to be credible, as per a recent poll.

While election results have kept getting delayed, supporters of both Castillo and Fujimori have been taking out competing rallies. Once a winner is announced, the inauguration is scheduled to take place on July 28.

What does the delay mean for Peru?

Although international observers have called the election free and fair, some of Fujimori’s supporters have called for a new election, and even insisted that a military coup should take place if Castillo comes to power.

While Fujimori is eventually expected to concede, experts worry about the vitriolic atmosphere that has been created due to the fraud claims; the situation has been compared with the right-wing frenzy that gripped the US after former President Donald Trump similarly denied the results of the November 2020 election, as well as in Israel, where longtime leader Benjamin Netanyahu also blamed a “deep state” conspiracy for his defeat this year.

However, unlike in the US and Israel, where democratic institutions are strong, a similar situation could prove dangerous in the Andean country, where democratic rule is only two decades old. Its politics too, is already fraught, with four presidents and two parliaments in five years. The copper-rich country also faces severe challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the country recording the world’s highest per capita death toll.

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