Peruvian socialist Pedro Castillo held a wafer-thin lead in a polarized presidential election on Wednesday, as rival Keiko Fujimori doubled down on unproven allegations of voter fraud, which could spark weeks of political wrangling.
Castillo, the son of illiterate farmers who has rattled the Andean nation’s political elite and garnered huge support from the rural poor, had 50.2% with virtually all votes processed, just a 0.4 percentage point ahead of right-wing Keiko Fujimori, or 74,000 votes.
Fujimori, the heir of a powerful political family, however, on Wednesday night alleged that about 500,000 votes were suspicious, although she provided little in way of proof. She questioned the likeliness of voting tables grouping up to 300 voters in which she got not votes at all.
“We think it is crucial that these (allegations) be analyzed in the final count,” Fujimori said, who added that she was not saying that electoral authorities were complicit in any wrongdoing.
The leftist’s party has strongly denied the claims and electoral observers say the vote was carried out cleanly.
The allegations, with some echoes of the legal wrangling after the U.S. election last year, may trigger weeks of confusion and tension, amid a polarized election cycle that has divided Peruvians, with higher-income citizens supporting the right-wing candidate and lower-income ones supporting Castillo.
“The people are tired, if they continue to trample over our rights that our president has already won, we are going to get into a social struggle,” said Justiniano Ilario, a teacher supporting Castillo while on a protest march.
“Enough is enough, the people from the provinces, we are tired of this outrage of corruption that exists everywhere.”
Luis Cano, wearing a “Keiko” cap in a rival street protest, said the Castillo supporters were using tactics other authoritarian leftists in the region had done before to win the vote.
Hundreds of voters on both sides have taken to the streets to protest for their candidate, mostly peacefully and even at times with musicians and dancers. Castillo has made calls on supporters to “defend the vote”.
There are also some 300,000 contested votes, which will need to be further scrutinized by an electoral jury, a process that will take several days to complete and could tip the balance.
The world’s no. 2 copper producer saw three presidents in a week last year amid political scandals and protests, has been hit by the world’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak and posted its worst economic plunge in three decades last year.