ELECTIONS IN PERU

Keiko Fujimori alleges fraud as Peru election goes down to the wire

Right-wing presidential candidate claims there have been irregularities as a razor-thin margin of victory opens for her rival Pedro Castillo. Observers, however, say the vote was clean

Peruvian candidate Keiko Fujimori during her press conference in Lima on Monday at which she denounced alleged electoral fraud.
Peruvian candidate Keiko Fujimori during her press conference in Lima on Monday at which she denounced alleged electoral fraud.GIAN MASKO / AFP

Peru’s right-wing candidate for president, Keiko Fujimori, has alleged fraud and irregularities in the country’s run-off election as her rival, progressive teacher Pedro Castillo, opened up a lead of 0.58% of votes with very few ballots left to be counted.

At a press conference on Monday, Fujimori said that there was “a clear intention to boycott the will of the people,” but electoral observer missions including the Organization of American States (OAS) delegation have said the poll was well organized and did not log cases of fraud.

Pedro Castillo, a trade unionist popular in rural Peru, called on election authorities to “protect the vote” as ballots are counted and published, the AFP news agency reported. Fujimori had previously said she would respect the results, whichever way they fell.

Fujimori did not produce evidence of the kind that would prove her claims at the press conference, and called on supporters to post videos of fraud on social media

She also accused Castillo’s Perú Libre party of distorting the result by challenging ballot tallies that favored her Fuerza Popular party. This procedure is permissible by Peruvian law and one that Fujimori’s party also employs. When the party sees a tally that is unfavorable to them they can challenge flaws in the document to demand it be declared void, but this procedure does not constitute an electoral irregularity. While some isolated incidents in polling stations were registered, these were resolved by the authorities and made public.

She did not produce evidence of the kind that would prove her claims at the press conference, and called on supporters to post videos of fraud on social media.

Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori, is in her third run-off for the presidency after previous unsuccessful attempts in 2011 and 2016. With 96.43% of votes counted, she had taken 49.712% while Castillo scored 50.288%, triggering her public reaction. Peru’s election authority is still counting votes cast by citizens abroad. “We know that the votes of Peruvians residing abroad are arriving and we are confident that with the recount of these tally sheets, the vote will even out,” she said.

Her claims contrast strongly with the evaluation of international electoral observers. The head of the Organization of American States (OAS) mission congratulated Peru on Monday afternoon for the peaceful and democratic conduct of Sunday’s elections. “I acknowledge the electoral authorities’ organization of a process of great complexity marked by the pandemic and political polarization,” said Rubén Ramírez in a video posted on Twitter.

Given the narrow margin of votes between the candidates and the relatively slow counting process, Castillo and Fujimori have both expressed concerns over the tallying, though only Fujimori has gone so far as to speak of fraud. The head of the OAS mission has asked Fujimori and Castillo for patience as calm as the results emerge. “Any potential disagreements,” he said, “will be settled through legal channels”.

‘Stolen’ elections in 2016

Fujimori has previously been involved in this type of complaint. When she lost in 2016 to Pedro Pablo Kuczynski by less than 1% of the vote, she and her campaign team denounced the elections as “stolen”. Kuczynski was pronounced the winner regardless and her party then obstructed the newly elected government with impeachment proceedings.

A report from the mission of the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations also recognized the efforts of Peru’s election authorities “for organizing a correct and successful process, in accordance with national and international standards”. After Fujimori’s statement, Iván Lanegra, secretary general of Transparencia, a civil society organization of electoral observers, rejected the idea of “fraud” in the run-off.

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