Deeply divided Peru awaits ultimate outcomes of presidential vote | Elections Information

Pedro Castillo has a slight lead over Keiko Fujimori after an expert says it will be “one of the closest elections in the country”.

Peruvians are still waiting for the final results of their country’s presidential election, as left union leader Pedro Castillo retains a razor-thin lead over right-wing Keiko Fujimori days after the deeply polarized vote.

With 99.8 percent of the vote counted Wednesday afternoon, Castillo had 50.19 percent support versus 49.8 percent from Fujimori.

Sunday’s runoff election took place amid years of political instability in Peru, which is also struggling with rising COVID-19 infections and deaths and a pandemic-induced economic downturn.

Castillo leads with more than 67,000 of the 17.4 million valid votes counted, but with votes still being tallied and ballots being challenged by both sides, it could be days before a final official result is announced.

The count has slowed as ballots arrive from abroad and also arrive in the capital, Lima, from the more remote rural areas of Peru – a stronghold of support for Castillo.

Fujimori, the daughter of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, has made unfounded allegations that Castillo’s supporters tried to steal votes and her team has announced plans to legally challenge the outcome.

Castillo’s party has strongly denied the allegations, and election observers, including the ONPE Electoral Board and the Organization of American States, said the vote was neatly conducted.

On Wednesday, Peru’s military also made a declaration to “respect the will of the people expressed at the ballot box” when calls to the armed forces circulated on social media to prevent Castillo from taking power.

“In Peru, as in any democracy, election results must be respected,” tweeted Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch, on Wednesday evening.

Vivanco said all fraud allegations must be backed by “serious evidence” while international human rights law requires that “every vote be counted and respected”.

Hundreds of voters from both sides took to the streets to protest for their candidate, mostly peacefully and at times with musicians and dancers.

Supporters of Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Castillo gather on Jan. [File: Liz Tasa/Reuters]Both candidates had previously agreed to respect the result of the vote.

Whoever wins will take over a COVID-19-battered economy and the world’s highest per capita death rate from coronavirus. Two million Peruvians lost their jobs during the pandemic and almost a third now live in poverty, official figures show.

“Fujimori is unlikely to overtake Castillo at this point,” said David Sulmont, professor of sociology at the Pontifical Catholic University in Peru and former head of its polling unit, Reuters news agency.

“It is one of the closest elections in the country,” he added. “The margin can vary, but I think Castillo will be the winner.”

Castillo said on Wednesday that party observers believed his triumph was a done deal.

“In the name of the Peruvian people” he thanked “embassies and governments from Latin America and other countries” for messages of congratulations on his “victory”.

No government has officially recognized a Castillo victory, although Bolivia’s former President Evo Morales sent a message of “congratulations on this victory”.

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