PERU ELECTIONS

Pedro Castillo claims presidential victory in Peru before vote counting ends: ‘The people have spoken’

Left-wing teacher announces he has won the run-off vote against Keiko Fujimori and says he will form a government that respects democracy and the constitution

Pedro Castillo greeting supporters at his campaign headquarters in Lima on Monday night.
Pedro Castillo greeting supporters at his campaign headquarters in Lima on Monday night.SEBASTIAN CASTANEDA / Reuters

Firebrand left-wing teacher Pedro Castillo announced late on Tuesday he had won a run-off vote against Keiko Fujimori and would become the next president of Peru. Speaking before counting had officially ended, Castillo told supporters massed in front of his Perú Libre party’s headquarters that “the people have spoken,” before removing his hat and opening his arms to the wild cheers and euphoric celebrations of the assembled group.

With 97.8% of the ballots counted after Sunday’s election, Castillo has a lead of 84,000 votes. Right-wing candidate Fujimori had hoped that the late counting of votes from Peruvians abroad would help her shorten Castillo’s lead, but her challenger was boosted by more ballots from rural areas, where he is extremely popular.

If Castillo is officially confirmed as the winner, it will be a stunning victory for a rural teacher who was unknown in Peruvian politics as late as January of this year. “Based on information from our electoral observers, we now have the party’s official count, and the people have made this gesture, which we salute. For this reason I also ask you not to react to provocation,” Castillo said.

Castillo’s party is not taking anything for granted, and has asked its supporters to keep watch day and night at offices of the election authority

Fujimori has denounced fraud in the electoral process linked to Castillo’s party members challenging some tallies in areas where she has taken more votes, but her claims are supported neither by independent domestic nor international observers. She has also failed to present solid evidence for these claims. The daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori is standing in a Peruvian run-off election for the third time, after losing in 2011 and 2016. She made similar fraud claims in 2016 when she lost to Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

Peruvian law firms representing sectors of the economy that mostly supported Fujimori’s candidacy will on Wednesday request to annul 100,000 votes cast in favor of the leftist candidate. Peruvian electoral law prohibits private companies from donating to electoral campaigns, so law firms must avoid operating in a way that looks like illicit financing for Fujimori.

The dollar has strengthened against the Peruvian Sol amid the uncertainty over the election’s outcome, in a country that was already in political turmoil with four presidents in the last five years.

Castillo said that he had spoken with Peru’s business leaders, who had overtly rejected his candidacy in favor of Fujimori. “I have just had conversations with figures in business nationally who are showing support for the people. We will form a government that is respectful of democracy, and of the current constitution. We will build a government of financial and economic stability,” he said. Castillo had announced a referendum to reform the constitution a few weeks ago, generating controversy.

Exit polls had shown a tie between the two candidates, for whom every single vote is now key. Peru has been on tenterhooks since Sunday night, and for Castillo’s victory to be official he needs Peru’s electoral authority to count all the votes. Peru’s National Jury of Elections will then resolve the appeals of both parties. Once that process is finished the winner is officially declared, which could take several days.

Castillo’s party is not taking anything for granted, and has asked its supporters to keep watch day and night at offices of the election authority, around 300 meters from the headquarters of Perú Libre. Castillo joined the party in order to run for the elections in January, when he was practically unknown.

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