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Presidential election in Peru: 2021 results too close to be announced

After all the polling station registers were processed, data from the Peruvian electoral authority, ONPE, showed Thursday evening that the left-wing populist candidate Pedro Castillo had won 50.179% of the vote. His right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori received 49.821%. The two were separated by less than 63,000 votes.

The participation rate was just over 74%. Peru has a population of around 33 million people.

Peruvians went to the polls at a time of extreme political instability. The outgoing president, Francisco Sagasti, occupies the post ad interim. He became Peru’s fourth president in less than five years after Congress voted to oust former popular leader Martin Vizcarra and his replacement, Manuel Merino, resigned.

Castillo, a rural school teacher who never served in public office, campaigned on the pledge to give states greater control over markets and natural resources as part of a plan to bring the benefits of economic growth to Peru’s poorest people, while trying to avoid warnings that its policies will turn the country into a dire economic case like Venezuela.

Fujimori has sought to convince voters that Peru’s existing economic and political system needs tweaking, not overhaul – and that his presidency will no longer mean the allegations of corruption and human rights abuses that have characterized the reign of his father Alberto Fujimori from 1990 to 2000.

It will likely take several more days before a winner is declared. ONPE chief Piero Corvetto said on Thursday that authorities have yet to calculate the results of polling stations where the results have been contested and are being reviewed by special electoral judges.

Once the judges have cleared the challenges, the country’s National Election Jury (JNE) must give final approval to the count.

According to Peruvian law, a winner can only be declared after the JNE has reviewed all the vote counts and resolved complaints from electoral controllers. There is no vote recount in Peru’s electoral system. JNE President Jorge Luis Salas said in a local radio interview that the results could arrive this month, but the massive number of cancellation requests could slow the process down.

In the 2016 election, he said, there were only 29 cancellation requests. This time around, Fujimori called on officials to overturn the results of 802 polling stations which his team estimated to represent around 200,000 votes.

A judge rejected the request on Thursday, but Fujimori can appeal. Also on Thursday, the ONPE said it had submitted to the JNE the reports of 512 polling stations where the results are contested by one or both parties.

Fujimori has been under investigation for corruption since 2018. She has denied the allegations and has not been formally charged.

The lead prosecutor in his case urged a judge to send him to preventive prison on Thursday as the votes continued to be counted. Fujimori said the request was unnecessary.

“The prosecutor knows where I live, I will not run away,” she said.

If Fujimori wins the election, the investigation into her will be suspended until the end of her term in 2026, prosecutors in charge of the case said.


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