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June 17, 2021

Latam

PERU: Fujimori’s last stand

BY Nicholas Watson

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( 3 mins)

The vote count following the 6 June presidential run-off concluded on 15 June. Pedro Castillo won 50.12% of the vote, while his rival Keiko Fujimori obtained 49.87%. This amounts to a difference of just over 44,000 votes out of 17.6mn votes cast for the two candidates. However, Castillo has not been formally certified as the winner and will not be until all legal challenges have been resolved, though he has declared himself president-elect, even as Fujimori has refused to concede defeat.

Electoral authorities are currently reviewing vote annulment requests submitted by Keiko Fujimori’s legal team last week. The annulment requests are based on various types of error or inconsistency in the vote summary sheets; in line with electoral law, the individual votes themselves have been destroyed, which incidentally makes a complete vote recount impossible.

Officials at the JNE electoral board have said that this process may take as long as another two and a half weeks. Note that in 2016, when the vote difference between Fujimori and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) was even smaller (around 41,000) but there were far fewer vote annulment requests, PPK was officially proclaimed as the winner 23 days after the election.

Fujimori is exploring every single legal avenue to change the result. The latest move is to challenge the constitutionality of last week’s deadline to file vote annulment requests; most of the Fujimori camp’s challenges were in fact filed after the deadline.

The JNE, its special review committees (JEEs), and the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE), have all performed well under intense pressure. The electoral authorities’ transparent handling of the voting review has helped avoid tensions rising even as all of Fujimori’s challenges have so far been rejected. It helps that there is no compelling evidence whatsoever that fraud took place.

There have been calls for the elections to be scrapped but this is far from a mainstream view. One proposal was that if there is no clear winner by inauguration day (28 July), the congressional president should take temporary charge while fresh elections are organized. This would be unconstitutional. No doubt aware of some parallels to 1962, when a coup was staged following a troubled election, the armed forces recently issued a communique underlining their commitment to the constitution and democracy.

In this context, it is probably a matter of time before the political parties begin to accept the result as it stands. The Purple Party (PM) has already acknowledged Castillo as president-elect. Heavyweight parties have incentives to do the same given that they will be powerful players in the new Congress versus an inexperienced new president in the shape of Castillo. There is an opportunity for right-wing parties led by Renovacion Popular (RP) to take on the mantle of the “anti-communist” struggle and exploit extreme political polarization, not before inflicting as much political damage as possible on Castillo by questioning his victory. Fujimori’s own legal troubles will contribute to the narrative of political persecution that the likes of the RP’s Rafael Lopez Aliaga will look to promote. This should set the stage for a new chapter of deeply confrontational, unstable politics.

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