Peruvians vote to elect president, divided by class, geography

Joanna Estrada
Июня 8, 2021

Latest polls show the candidates essentially neck and neck, and, as such, an immediate result may not be clear.

Ms Fujimori, 46, the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, is promising to maintain economic stability and pro-free market policies in the world's second-largest copper producer, as well as to pardon her father, who was sentenced for human rights violations.

The pandemic not only has collapsed Peru's medical and cemetery infrastructure, left millions unemployed and highlighted longstanding inequalities in the country, it has also deepened people's mistrust of government as it mismanaged the COVID-19 response and a secret vaccination drive for the well-connected erupted into a national scandal.

At the height of the political storm in November previous year, Peru had three different presidents in just five days.

Now, the election could be the tipping point for people's simmering frustrations.

Critics of the left-wing candidate fear he could radically reform the country and have waged negative social media campaigns against him, describing him as a "communist" and labelling him as a sympathiser of the Shining Path. Mr Castillo has repeatedly denied any ties to the group or to its political sympathisers.

"Whether it's Mr. Castillo, or Ms. Keiko (Fujimori), I hope they do a good job over the next five years".

The class and geographic divide this time around was evident in Sunday's exit poll. "An important share of votes from rural areas and overseas is still waiting to be counted", said Pedro Corvetto, head of ONPE.

Both candidates promised to respect the results as they cast their own ballots on Sunday.

Fujimori, a conservative former congresswoman, has promised various bonuses to people, including a $2,500 one-time payment to each family with at least one Covid-19 victim. She also proposed that 40% of mining royalties be directly distributed "to the population" in regions where local governments receive these resources.

Her supporters include the wealthy, several players of the national football team and Mario Vargas Llosa, Peru's foremost author and the victor of a Nobel Prize in Literature.

The tight runoff mirrors the last presidential election, in 2016, when Pedro Pablo Kuczynski eventually beat Fujimori by a narrow margin after days of uncertainty.

Keiko Fujimori herself has been imprisoned as part of a graft investigation though she was later released.

But his government collapsed amid accusations of grand-scale corruption and he is now serving a 25-year jail sentence for ordering the extrajudicial killings of suspected subversives, most of whom turned out to have nothing to do with Shining Path. If she wins, the criminal case against her will be halted while she leads the country. The son of illiterate peasants entered politics by leading a teachers' strike.

Among Castillo's supporters are former Bolivia President Evo Morales and former Uruguay President José Mujica, who in a conversation via Facebook told Castillo on Thursday to "not fall into authoritarianism".

Peru is the second largest copper exporter in the world and mining accounts for nearly 10% of its GDP and 60% of its exports, so Castillo's initial proposal to nationalize the nation's mining industry set off alarm bells among business leaders. The next president, who is due to be sworn in July 28, will be Peru's fourth leader since November.

Nevertheless, she scraped into the runoff by taking just 13 per cent, in a field of 18 candidates, to Castillo's 19 per cent. "Keiko's only possibility of growing her support was to create a monster, and she has been extremely successful", says Giovana Peñaflor, of Imasen pollsters.

Associated Press writer Regina Garcia Cano reported this story from Mexico City and AP writer Franklin Briceno reported in Lima.

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