Lima, Peru – The official result has not yet been announced but Pedro Castillo seems almost certain to be the next president of Peru.
The radical left stranger, however, will face a bitter struggle to unite the bitterly divided Andean nation, and the most pressing question will be whether he moderates his policies or insists on Marxist policies in his Peru party manifesto. free.
These proposals include ensuring that Peru’s vast mining sector leaves 70% of its profits in the country, nationalizing the media and devoting 20% of gross domestic product (GDP) to education and health, more than the country has ever collected in tax revenue.
With all 18.8 million votes cast in the June 6 presidential runoff now counted, Castillo has 50.15% support, giving him an ultra-fine mine by just over 50,000 votes against his far-right opponent Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the imprisoned president of the 1990s Alberto Fujimori.
She has screamed fraud – although international observers gave the election a flawless health check – and this week hired some of Lima’s top lawyers to try to overturn 200,000 votes, mostly in poor rural areas of the Andes. and the Amazon where Castillo won an overwhelming majority, in some cases with over 80 percent support.
But Fujimori’s effort, which is unprecedented in Peruvian electoral history and delayed the official declaration of a winner, appears to have failed.
Peru’s National Electoral Tribunal (JNA, according to its Spanish acronym) ruled on Friday that most of its challenges came after the legal deadline. There are now a little less than 40,000 votes in play, not enough to reverse the result.
Nonetheless, the last-resort effort of Fujimori, 46, who faces trial and potentially long jail time for alleged money laundering, has further polarized Peru after the divisive presidential campaign.
Many commentators have noted how his legal team, made up largely of white lawyers, was effectively trying to deny Indigenous and Métis voters the right to vote.
“It’s part of our political and legal culture, all this paperwork,” Arturo Maldonado, a political scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, told Al Jazeera. “She is a candidate who has everything to lose and who uses these tricks to win in court what she could not do on the pitch.”
Fujimori’s refusal to give in has also likely increased the challenges Castillo, 51, a provincial teacher and union leader, will face in establishing his legitimacy in power.
The two deeply unpopular candidates received only 13% and 19%, respectively, in the crowded in the first round, and the second round was seen by most Peruvians as a vote for the candidate considered the lesser of two evils.
Having no public service experience and frequently contradicting himself during the election campaign, Castillo will face a new shattered, right-wing Congress that is unlikely to endorse his economic plans, especially nationalizations.
He will also face the risk of dismissal, with or without cause. The outgoing Congress set this precedent last November when it deleted The then president, Martín Vizcarra, resigned from his post on the basis of corruption allegations which were not only unproven but which had not yet been the subject of a serious investigation.
“It is possible that Castillo will turn his back on Congress and try to rule by plebiscite,” said Maldonado.
Another key question will be how Castillo approaches the fight against corruption in Peru.
Two cases will serve as first litmus tests. The first is that of Keiko Fujimori, in which prosecutors demand a 31-year sentence for money laundering charges she denies, while the second is that of Vladimir Cerrón, the former regional governor and trained surgeon. Cuban who founded Free Peru.
Cerrón had chosen the little-known Castillo to replace him on the presidential list after he was barred from running for president due to a corruption conviction. On Thursday, a court controversially overturned his conviction and four-year suspended sentence. The judge is currently under investigation and Cerrón, who many Peruvians say will be the driver in the backseat of the Castillo administration, faces half a dozen additional fraud investigations.
Cerrón has often made controversial comments suggesting that it was he, and not Castillo, who was leading the campaign. The presidential candidate, however, sought to downplay this, insisting in one case that his mentor would not even be hired as a “janitor” in his administration.
“Castillo needs to do a lot more to clearly differentiate himself from Cerrón,” said Samuel Rotta, who heads the Peruvian chapter of Transparency International. “His presidency may depend on it, but so will his anti-corruption strategy. “
Hope for “enlightenment”
Meanwhile, the mood is tense in Peru as the country awaits the final result. Legal challenges are expected to continue next week, delaying the start of the transition because the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the country.
Fujimori supporters were picketing at the offices of the ONPE electoral agency and at the home of the head of the JNE and the ONPE. Interim President Francisco Sagasti called on both sides to avoid proclaim victory before the official result was announced, prompting some lawmakers to even suggest censoring him for his alleged bias against Fujimori.
Anna Luisa Burga, 46, a historian from Cajamarca native to Castillo who now lives in Lima, summed up the state of mind of many Peruvians who had reluctantly voted for Castillo and now hope that the apparently untested newly elected president can rise to enormous new responsibilities.
“I didn’t vote for him in the first round, and I wasn’t going to vote for him in the second round, but then came this wave of racism and classism and discrimination, and I decided it was important, including for symbolism, to have a president like Castillo, ”she told Al Jazeera.
“I still have doubts and I think it will be very difficult for him. But I just hope he gets enlightened and surrounds himself with good people.