Peruvians head to polls to elect new president

Lima, Jun 6 (EFE).- A total of 25.2 million Peruvians are eligible to vote on Sunday for a new president to govern from 2021-2026, the runoff contest between Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori after the opening of the polls both nationwide and those set up for Peruvians living abroad.

About 24.2 million voters will be able to vote at one of the 83,048 polling places established around the country while 997,033 will be able to cast ballots at 3,440 voting sites abroad.

The largest number of polling places outside Peru are in the Americas (2,253), followed by Europe with 1,012, but an additional 146 have been established in various spots in Asia, 24 in Oceania and 5 in Africa.

Polls were scheduled to open at 7 am, but the first precinct opened its doors at 4:55 am at the Jose Carlos Mariategui school located in Arequipa province.

In contrast to the first electoral round held on April 11, the voting at the various sites on Sunday was reported to be proceeding normally and without the delays that had been evident in the initial vote.

In Lima, interim President Francisco Sagasti was one of the first officials to cast his ballot on election day.

After voting, Sagasti urged the public to go “calmly to vote” and said that he was aware that voting “is a right and an important responsibility for consolidating democracy.”

The National Election Office (ONPE) encouraged the youngest voters to go to the polls early to help set up the voting precincts if the workers selected for that task were not yet on hand, thus ensuring that the precincts would open on time.

The citizens selected to be polling place workers, who will usher voters through their respective precincts up until the polls close at 7 pm, will receive 120 soles ($30) for performing that vital function.

After the polls close, the poll workers will tally the ballots in the presence of representatives from both main parties – Castillo’s left-wing Peru Libre (Free Peru) and Fujimori’s right-wing Fuerza Popular (People’s Force), and they will then all head to the nearest ONPE office to hand over the ballots.

ONPE chief Piero Corvetto announced that the first official vote results will be announced starting about 11:30 pm on Sunday, as the ballots are tabulated at computer centers.

He also reiterated the call by government authorities for the public to calmly await the official results, given that the voter intention surveys have shown that the two runoff candidates are in a dead heat, with any slight advantage enjoyed by one or the other in this or that survey falling within the error margin.

Castillo was scheduled to cast his ballot in his native Cajamarca, after which he will travel to Lima to await the official results, while Fujimori will vote during the afternoon in the Peruvian capital, where she resides.

Fujimori declared that she would respect the result of the election, saying at a breakfast before heading to her local precinct that “it will always be an honor” to work for Peru.

“My message is of profound gratitude to all Peruvians. I want to confirm our commitment to respect the popular will, and the voters will decide if I will serve as president or as a simple citizen,” the daughter of former – and currently imprisoned after being convicted of corruption – President Alberto Fujimori told reporters.

She noted that the country is “very polarized” at present and that it will be a fundamental task – no matter who wins the vote – to work to create national unity.

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