Count shows leftist Castillo with insurmountable lead in Peru

Lima, Jun 10 (EFE).- Leftist political neophyte Pedro Castillo maintains a narrow lead over Keiko Fujimori – the daughter of disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori – with just 0.7 percent of the votes from last weekend’s presidential runoff still to be counted, Peru’s ONPE electoral agency said Thursday.

The 51-year-old schoolteacher from one of Peru’s poorest regions has an edge of 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent, or a little more than 68,000 votes, over Fujimori, 46.

Though the ballots left to be tabulated exceed the difference between the candidates, the bulk of them come from districts where Castillo has been winning by a margin of 67 percent to 33 percent.

Special electoral boards are still reviewing 608 tally sheets that have been challenged. More than half of the challenges pertain to sheets from areas where Castillo prevailed with large majorities.

And the National Electoral Court (JNE) must grapple with a motion brought by Fujimori’s right-wing Fuerza Popular party to throw out nearly 200,000 votes from precincts carried by her opponent.

Fuerza Popular has yet to provide any evidence to support its claims of “systemic fraud,” or even to venture an explanation of how such a fraud could be perpetrated by Castillo or his allies, who control none of the machinery of government.

International observers gave Sunday’s election a clean bill of health.

The JNE may not be in a position to officially certify a winner for another week or two, but that has not stopped prominent figures of the Latin American left from hailing Castillo’s victory.

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez and Brazilian former head of state Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva offered their congratulations early Thursday and Bolivia’s Luis Arce followed suit after the latest report from the ONPE.

Five years after falling in the second round to fellow rightist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and a decade after her runoff defeat to nationalist Ollanta Humala, Keiko Fujimori awaits the official result knowing that a loss on this occasion will leave her facing trial on money-laundering charges.

Indeed, the prosecutors pursuing that case said Thursday that they planned to ask the court to order Fujimori returned to custody.

She was arrested in October 2018 and spent 18 months behind bars in preventive detention before an appellate court accepted a habeas corpus motion from her lawyers.

Fuerza Popular remained under Fujimori’s control during her time locked-up and she re-entered active politics last September.

Castillo, running under the banner of the small leftist Peru Libre, was the surprise top vote-getter in the first round of the presidential election in April and Fujimori finished second.

Her father is serving a prison term for graft and killings during his 1990-2000 rule, and the money laundering accusations against Keiko likely discouraged some conservatives who share Fujimori’s ideology from voting for her, despite the campaign’s attempt to frame the election as a choice between “freedom and communism.”

Keiko Fujimori pledged to maintain the system installed by her father in the 1990s, credited with fueling strong economic growth.

Arguing that the growth of the last three decades benefited only people who were already well-off, Castillo vows to create a new constitution and reassert the government’s control over Peru’s natural resources.

The winner is to take office on July 28, the 200th anniversary of Peruvian independence, but the celebration will probably be a modest one given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 180,000 lives and brought the economy to its knees. EFE amr/dr

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