Peruvian vote review to resume as country braces for protests | Elections News

Supporters of alleged President-elect Pedro Castillo and right-wing Keiko Fujimori take to the streets of Lima.

Challenges to Peru’s hotly contested presidential election are set to resume after a new judge was sworn in to the litigation panel on Saturday as supporters of rival candidates Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori took to the streets of Lima in protest.

Left-wing teacher and union leader Castillo declared victory after securing 50.12% support in the June 6 run-off – about 44,000 votes more than right-wing Fujimori – according to the full vote count.

But the daughter of ex-president Alberto Fujimori has suspected electoral fraud – despite international observers claiming that the election took place without serious irregularities – and his side asked the National Election Jury (JNE) to examine thousands of ballots.

The country’s electoral process was plunged into further uncertainty this week after one of the four judges on the jury reviewing the disputed ballots resigned after clashing with other officials over requests to quash votes.

On Saturday, the jury was sworn in to a replacement to allow the process to restart. “Electoral justice cannot be paralyzed or blocked, let alone in this phase of the process,” said JNE President Jorge Salas.

The polarized presidential election came amid deep political divisions in Peru, which is struggling to cope with the surge in infections and deaths from COVID-19, as well as an economic slowdown linked to the pandemic.

Mariana Sanchez of Al Jazeera, reporting from Lima, said supporters of Keiko Fujimori and Pedro Castillo were protesting in the capital on Saturday evening.

“The situation is very tense… It’s been 20 days [since the election] and still no official results at the moment, ”she said, adding that the police were trying to separate the rival groups.

Castillo supporters urged election officials to certify the results, while Fujimori supporters echoed the right-wing candidate’s claims that the vote was tainted with fraud and want a full investigation, Sanchez reported.

But she said Camp Fujimori had not provided any evidence to support the fraud allegations.

“All the international observers who have come here – from the Organization of American States, Transparency International, the European Union, the United States Department of State, Canada – have declared that the elections have been free and fair,” Sanchez said.

Supporters of Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Castillo gather in Plaza San Martin in Lima on June 19 [Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters]

As tensions continue to rise, an audio recording was leaked of a jailed former intelligence adviser who was a close aide to former President Alberto Fujimori, seeking to sway the vote in favor of Keiko Fujimori. The Navy said it would investigate phone calls from its prison to a naval base.

“We are outraged that a detainee appears on the scene at such a critical moment in our democratic life,” Prime Minister Violeta Bermudez told reporters on Saturday.

Peru’s new president is to be sworn in on July 28, the country’s independence day.

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