As fewer and fewer votes remain to be counted in Peru’s presidential election, Fuerza Popular candidate Keiko Fujimori is looking to undermine her rival Pedro Castillo’s razor-thin lead by disqualifying votes already counted. If she doesn’t take office, Fujimori faces likely prison time for corruption charges.
Late Wednesday evening, Fujmori appealed to Peru’s National Electoral Tribunal (JNE) to annul the results of 802 polling stations, which could lead to some 200,000 votes being discarded. At a press conference, she also said she asked for another 300,000 to be reviewed, so “half a million votes are in play.”
“There’s clear evidence of systematic intent on the part of Free Peru to subvert the popular will,” Fujimori said.
Miguel Torres, Fujimori’s legal counsel, told the Financial Times that the candidate is “not going to throw in the towel” and “will fight until the final vote.”
“Many Peruvians feel that their votes are being stolen, and we can’t permit that,” he said.
Castillo, the candidate from the left-wing Peru Libre party, is ahead of Fujimori by just 71,500 votes, according to Kawsachun News. While more than 99% of votes have been counted, the final ballots could take days to trickle in, coming from a mixture of expatriates overseas and rural inland locations.
While Fujimori had an early lead in the Sunday vote tally, by Monday, Castillo had pulled ahead and Fujimori began alleging fraud by Peru Libre. However, she has yet to present evidence of her claims, and has called on her supporters to furnish proof, while international observers like the Organization of American States and the Observer Mission of the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations (UNIORE) have not logged any cases of fraud, either.
In the past, the OAS has been quick to allege inconsistencies when leftist candidates are winning ballot counts, such as in Bolivia in 2019, when their accusations – later proven to be false – helped spark a coup d’etat that forced democratically elected President Evo Morales from office.
However, Fujimori has said she will respect the conclusion reached by the JNE and National Official of Electoral Processes (ONPE) when they reach it. An ONPE official told Agence France-Presse on Thursday that the final counting could take a week.
Castillo Calls for ‘Peace, Tranquility, Unity’
Despite Fujimori’s moves, Castillo has continued to appeal for calm from his supporters, urging them to let the election authorities do their work.
Estimados/as hermanos/as: agradezco a quiénes siguen resistiendo en las calles. No caigamos en provocaciones de quienes quieren ver este país en el caos. Por ello, hacemos un llamado de paz y tranquilidad. Sigamos firmes y alegres en esta lucha final que es de todos los peruanos.
— Pedro Castillo Terrones (@PedroCastilloTe) June 10, 2021
“Dear brothers and sisters: I thank those who continue to resist in the streets. Let us not fall into provocations of those who want to see this country in chaos,” Castillo tweeted on Wednesday evening. “Therefore, we call for peace, tranquility and unity. Let us remain firm and joyful in this final struggle that belongs to all Peruvians.”
He previously called on the ONPE to “protect the vote,” after Fujimori began leveling fraud accusations.
Fujimori is the daughter of the right-wing dictator Alberto Fujimori, who ruled Peru from 1990 until 2000, and presided over a period of civil war against the Maoist Sendero Luminoso movement and the imposition of intense neoliberal privatizations that wrecked economic havoc on millions of poor Peruvians.