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Peru election: socialist Pedro Castillo claims victory ahead of official result

Peru’s socialist candidate Pedro Castillo has claimed victory in the presidential election after clinging on to a narrow lead as the lengthy vote count ended, although his rightwing rival has pledged to fight the result and has yet to concede.

Castillo ended the count 44,058 votes ahead of Keiko Fujimori, who has made allegations of fraud with little proof and has tried to get some votes annulled. The result of the ballot held on 6 June has not been formally announced by electoral authorities, but Castillo hailed the win on Twitter.

“A new time has begun,” Castillo wrote, alongside a picture of himself with arms raised, the word ‘President’ in large font and his campaign slogan: “No more poor in a rich country.”

He also updated his Twitter profile to include “President-elect of the Republic of Peru (2021-2026).”

The abrupt rise of the 51-year-old former teacher has rattled Peru’s political and business elite and could have a major impact on the vital mining industry in the world’s second-biggest copper producer, with Castillo planning sharp tax hikes on the sector.

Fujimori did not immediately make a public comment about the vote on Tuesday. On Monday, she repeated her fraud allegations, saying: “We are only asking for a clean vote and for all the irregularities to be checked. We are not going to give up.”

Castillo’s Free Peru party has rejected accusations of fraud and international observers in Lima have stated that the elections were transparent.

Castillo had vowed earlier in the day he would not allow rivals to deny the will of the people and overturn the election, which has seen supporters on both sides take to the streets in recent days.

The son of peasant farmers, Castillo had 50.125% of the votes while Fujimori, the eldest daughter of imprisoned former president Alberto Fujimori, had 49.875%.

Castillo told reporters at the Lima headquarters of his party that he would respect electoral authorities and urged them to end the uncertainty by confirming the result quickly.

“We’re not going to allow an oppressed people to continue to be discriminated against for more years,” Castillo said. “Things have been put on the table democratically, and there needs to be a democratic way out.”

Election observers said it could take days or even weeks for the authorities to deliberate the legal challenges and to declare a winner.

Peruvians who had cast their votes for Castillo have grown impatient.

Ricarte Vasquez, 32, a street food vendor in Lima, called the deadlock “shameful”.

“If Keiko had won, it’d already be decided,” Vasquez said. “I voted not only for a change in the government but also for a change in the country.”

Vasquez said he hoped the situation for informal workers like himself, many of whom were hit hard during a months-long lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, would change with Castillo as president.

Luz Maria Quispe, 37, originally from Cusco, said she had also voted for Castillo and did not believe fraud claims.

“We want this change for Peru,” she said. “What I’m asking Senora Keiko Fujimori is that she now accepts defeat: the people have decided.”

Quispe said she had studied to become a nurse but was forced to quit because she could no longer afford tuition.

Castillo has galvanized rural and poorer voters who feel left behind in the country’s economic growth. His rise could portend a swing to the left in Brazil, Chile and Colombia, who will vote for new leaders this year and next.

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