Peruvian leftist Castillo claims election victory as Fujimori battles outcome
LIMA, June 15 (Reuters) – Peruvian socialist candidate Pedro Castillo claimed victory in the presidential election on Tuesday after hanging on to a narrow lead at the end of the long vote count, though his right-wing rival s’ is committed to fighting the outcome and has yet to concede.
Castillo finished the count with 44,058 votes ahead of Keiko Fujimori, who made fraud allegations with little evidence and tried to overturn some votes. The result of the June 6 poll was not officially announced by election officials, but Castillo hailed the victory on Twitter.
“A new time has begun,” Castillo wrote, alongside a photo of himself with his arms raised, the word “President” in large print 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 brutal rise of the 51-year-old former teacher has rocked Peru’s political and business elite and could have a major impact on the vital mining industry of the world’s second-largest copper producer, with Castillo forecasting steep tax hikes on the area.
Fujimori, speaking to his supporters at a rally in downtown Lima on Tuesday, pledged to keep fighting and “defend Peruvian democracy.” She hoped the result would change once the ballots her party seeks to overturn were verified.
“Today, a result came out, yes, a result of the counting of the ONPE (electoral body), but the most important is the evaluation of the ballot boxes,” she said. “We trust the authorities yes, but we trust the popular will more.”
Castillo’s Peru Libre party rejected the fraud charges and international observers in Lima said the elections were transparent.
WILL OF THE PEOPLE
Castillo had vowed earlier today that he would not allow his rivals to deny the will of the people and call off the election, which has seen supporters on both sides take to the streets in recent days.
Son of peasants, Castillo held 50.125% of the vote while Fujimori, the eldest daughter of the imprisoned former president Alberto Fujimori, held 49.875%.
Castillo told reporters at his party’s headquarters in Lima that he would respect the election authorities and urged them to end the uncertainty by quickly confirming the result.
“We are 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 has to be a democratic outcome.”
Election observers said it could take days, if not weeks, for authorities to deliberate on the court challenges and declare a winner.
Peruvians who voted for Castillo are growing impatient.
Ricarte Vasquez, 32, from northern Cajamarca, called the deadlock “shameful” as he sold a breakfast snack of fried sweet potatoes and yuca at a busy Lima intersection where minibuses take passengers.
“If Keiko had won, it would already be decided,” Vasquez said. “I voted not only for a change of 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, from Cusco, said she also voted for Castillo and did not believe the fraud allegations.
“We want this change for Peru,” she said, standing in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary in a park in Lima where she and the elderly person she was caring for had stopped to pray.
“What I ask Senora Keiko Fujimori is that she now accepts defeat: the people have decided.”
Quispe said she studied to be a nurse but was forced to quit because she could no longer afford school fees.
Socialist Castillo galvanized rural voters and the poorest who feel left behind in the country’s economic growth. His rise could portend a left turn in Brazil, Chile and Colombia, who will vote for new leaders this year and next.
Report by Marco Aquino; Written by Adam Jourdan
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