Leftist edges ahead of Keiko Fujimori in Peru vote

Lima, Jun 7 (EFE).- Leftist candidate Pedro Castillo took a slight lead over right-winger Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, on Monday as ballots were tabulated from Peru’s presidential runoff.

With more than 93 percent of the ballots counted, the schoolteacher from one of Peru’s poorest regions had 50.16 percent of the vote compared with 49.83 percent for Fujimori.

The votes remaining to be tabulated are from remote, rural areas – where Castillo in strong – and from Peruvians living abroad, expected to lean toward Fujimori.

The first returns, posted at midnight Sunday, were from Lima and other urban areas and showed an advantage of six percentage points for Fujimori.

But the trend shifted in favor of Castillo as the count went on, as forecast Sunday night by polling firm Ipsos, which projected a narrow victory for the political newcomer against the woman making her third bid for the office her father held from 1990-2000.

Neither candidate has made any public statement since the polls closed on Sunday.

While Fujimori has remained out of sight at her campaign headquarters in Lima, Castillo traveled to the capital after voting in his native Cajamarca region.

Castillo’s team announced a press conference for Monday, but quickly backtracked and canceled.

The interim president, Francisco Sagasti, said during an event with members of the Peruvian armed forces that the razor-thin margin between the candidates should be interpreted as a “clear and firm appeal to reconciliation and national unity.”

He urged Peruvians to come together, “respecting our differences and without belittling each other.”

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.

Those charges, a reminder – if one was needed – of the corruption scandals under Alberto Fujimori, likely discouraged some conservatives who share Keiko’s ideology from voting for her, despite the campaign’s attempt to portray 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


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