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Monday, June 21, 2021

Peruvians head to polls in polarizing run-off

Voters must pick between left-wing rural school teacher Pedro Castillo and right-wing political veteran Keiko Fujimori.

By: Deutsche Welle |
Updated: June 7, 2021 3:53:19 pm
Urban and wealthy Peruvians are leaning toward Fujimori, while poorer, rural Peruvians are leaning toward Castillo. (Photo: Sebastian Castaneda/REUTERS)

Peruvians began heading to the polls Sunday in a presidential runoff between the two polarizing populist candidates Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed ex-President Alberto Fujimori, and political novice Pedro Castillo.

The elections come at a time of heightened political instability as the Andean country battles the COVID-19 pandemic which has pushed millions into poverty and unemployment.

Both candidates have promised coronavirus vaccines for all Peruvians and to address the country’s health emergency.

Who is Keiko Fujimori?

Fujimori, 46, is the candidate of the right-wing Popular Force party. The conservative former congresswoman was the runner-up in the 2011 and 2016 presidential election run-offs.

She says that if she becomes president, her government would be a demodura, a play on the Spanish words for democracia (democracy) and mano dura (hard hand).

Her father, who governed between 1990 and 2000, is serving a 25-year sentence for corruption and human rights abuses and remains a divisive figure in Peruvian politics. She has promised to free him if she wins.

Fujimori herself has been imprisoned as part of a corruption probe, but was later released.

Her supporters include Peru’s wealthy, several players of the national soccer team and Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mario Vargas Llosa.

Seeking to appeal to Peru’s poor and underprivileged, Fujimori has promised various bonuses to people, including a $2,500 one-time payment to each family with at least one COVID-19 victim. She has also proposed distributing 40% of a tax for the extraction of minerals, oil or gas for families who live near those areas.

Who is Pedro Castillo?

Left-wing candidate Castillo until recently was a schoolteacher in Peru’s third-poorest district, deep in the Andes. He entered politics by leading a national teacher’s strike in 2017. He is seeking to rewrite the constitution that was approved under the leadership of Fujimori’s father so that “human rights have to be a priority” and “to end all inequalities.”

Castillo appeals to rural voters. Polls suggest he has strong support in those areas outside the capital, Lima.

Castillo’s supporters also include former Bolivia President Evo Morales and former Uruguay President Jose Mujica.

The former union leader has prioritized education in his election campaign, vowing to increase Peru’s educational budget from 3.5% to 10% of the gross domestic product.

Critics have slammed him as a “communist” on various social media platforms, and labelled him as a sympathizer of the militant insurgency group the Shining Path. Castillo has repeatedly denied any ties to the group.

An Ipsos poll conducted on Saturday puts Fujimori at 44.8% of the vote and Castillo at 44.1% of votes. Another 11.1% of voters would not vote for either candidate. Ipsos said the poll had a margin of error of 1.4 percentage points and a sample size of 5,117.

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