LIMA – A rural teacher-turned-political novice and the daughter of an imprisoned former president traded the lead Monday in a tight race for Peru’s presidency in a runoff election as the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter the Andean country.
With 96% of ballots tallied, leftist Pedro Castillo had 50.2% of the vote, while conservative Keiko Fujimori had 49.7%, according to official results. This is Fujimori’s third run for president, a role her father held in the 1990s.
The difference between the two polarizing candidates was just over 87,000 votes. The figures released by Peru’s elections agency, the National Office of Electoral Processes, included almost all votes cast near the country’s electoral processing centers. The agency was still waiting for the arrival of votes from remote rural areas and abroad.
“No one can say for sure at this point who is going to win,” Fernando Tuesta, a political scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and former Peruvian elections chief, told a local radio station. In 2016, now-former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski defeated Fujimori by just 42,597 votes.
The partial map of votes showed a country split in two. Castillo overwhelmingly dominated the impoverished rural areas of the Andes and much of the Amazon. Fujimori was the candidate of the business elite, dominating the capital and other cities on the Pacific coast.
The cities hardest hit by the Shining Path rebel group during Peru’s internal conflict between 1980 and 2000, which left almost 70,000 people dead, voted for Castillo. It was an adverse result for Fujimori, who during the campaign accused the professor without evidence of ties to terrorism.
The areas where international mining companies are seeking to expand extractive projects also voted almost entirely for Castillo. In the country’s poorest district, Uchuraccay, the teacher captured 87% of the votes, while in the richest district, San Isidro, Fujimori prevailed with 88%.
Fujimori, at a news conference, charged that her rival's campaign staff carried out a “a series of irregularities” during the election, but she did not present conclusive evidence. She predicted her support would increase when votes from Peruvians living abroad were counted.