No serious irregularities in presidential run-off, say observers


Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Castillo greets supporters in Lima

Pedro Castillo’s party has rejected the allegations of fraud

The Organization of American States (OAS) says it has found no evidence of serious irregularities in Peru’s tightly-fought presidential election.

But it also calls for “candidates not to be proclaimed winners until all the challenges have been resolved”.

Peru earlier finished processing the votes from last Sunday’s run-off, but an official announcement may take days.

Leftist Pedro Castillo kept a lead of about 60,000 votes over conservative Keiko Fujimori, who has claimed fraud.

Ms Fujimori – who has not provided detailed evidence of the alleged fraud – wants hundreds of thousands of votes to be reviewed.

A political novice, Mr Castillo has pledged to rewrite the constitution.

The primary school teacher was little known before winning the first round of the election, and campaigned on a promise to help the poor by introducing higher taxes on powerful mining firms in this copper-producing nation.

But there are fears his plans could destabilise the country’s economy. Whoever wins will have a tough task ahead bringing together a polarised nation of 32 million which has seen its economy crumble as it was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the electoral body Onpe, Mr Castillo had 50.2% of the votes against 49.8% for Ms Fujimori. The final votes came from rural areas, where Mr Castillo is popular, and from embassies abroad, most of which went to his rival.

Ms Fujimori asked electoral authorities to review 300,000 votes and nullify 200,000 others. It may take days before a decision on her requests, and potential appeals and reviews, are made. Only then the electoral tribunal will be able to officially declare a winner.

On Twitter, Ms Fujimori, who is running for the presidency for the third time, said: “We’ll continue to defend the legitimate right of millions of Peruvians until the last vote.”

Mr Castillo’s party, Peru Libre, or Free Peru, says there is no evidence of fraud. Speaking to supporters from a balcony in the capital Lima, Mr Castillo called for reconciliation after a divisive election, saying: “The people have awakened.”

Fujimori’s legal woes

Keiko Fujimori is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, who is in jail serving a 25-year sentence for crimes including corruption and human rights abuses.

Ms Fujimori herself is being investigated for alleged corruption and money laundering, claims she says are politically motivated. She spent 13 months in jail between 2018 and 2020, when she was released on parole.

Peruvian Presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori during a news conference in Lima

Keiko Fujimori says the accusations against her are politically motivated

In a surprise development on Thursday, prosecutor José Domingo Pérez requested that Ms Fujimori be returned to pre-trial custody, alleging that she had been in contact with a witness, violating the terms of her parole.

A decision is expected in the coming days. Ms Fujimori said Mr Pérez was attempting “to distract us” from their attempts to review the election count. A victory in the election would halt the case until the end of her administration.

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