Keiko Fujimori edges ahead but lead is narrow in Peru’s Presidential election

Peruvian rival presidential candidates Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori

Partial results show right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori has a narrow lead over left-wing Pedro Castillo in Peru’s presidential election. With more than 75% of votes counted, Ms Fujimori had a lead of 3.9 percentage points over newcomer Pedro Castillo.

However many votes from rural areas are yet to be counted, and this is where Mr Castillo’s support base is. This is Peru’s most polarized election in recent history, and both candidates have called for calm during the count. The new president will be taking on a country in crisis as Peru struggles with a recession and the highest coronavirus death rate per capita in the world.

Peruvians have had years of political turbulence, with four presidents in the past three years. In November, it had three different leaders in less than a week. Seven of the country’s last 10 leaders have either been convicted of or investigated for corruption. Keiko Fujimori, 46, is the leader of the right-win Popular Force party and a household name in Peru. As well as a former member of congress, she was the runner-up in the 2011 and 2016 presidential election run-offs.

She is also the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year sentence for corruption and human rights abuses. She has said that if she is elected, she will pardon her father. There have been scenes of celebrations outside her party’s headquarters in Peru’s capital, Lima. However electoral officials have said the early results reflect votes from urban areas, where she is most popular.

“What we have to look for is the unity of all Peruvians. That is why I ask both groups for calm, patience, peace, to those who voted and didn’t vote for us,” Ms Fujimori said.

Supporters of Keiko Fujimori celebrated early results

Pedro Castillo, 51, is a relatively new face on the political stage, and was the unexpected winner in the first round vote in April. An elementary school teacher, he is easily recognizable by his cowboy hat and oversized pencil that he campaigns with – the symbol of his Free Peru party. He is the son of peasant farmers and has widespread support in regional areas.

An earlier exit poll by Ipsos Peru initially put Mr Castillo in the lead by just 0.4 percentage points. It sent his supporters into the streets yelling “we won” in the town of Tacabamba, which is close to the village he grew up in and where he is waiting for the results. Hundreds gathered in the town’s main square for a pro-Castillo concert on Sunday night, some violating Peru’s coronavirus curfew of 23:00, Reuters news agency reported.

Mr Castillo also called for Peruvians to remain calm as the votes continue to be counted. “We trust the will of the people and hope that today in this democratic festival, we can have calm and patience. Long live Peru,” he told supporters from a balcony, speaking through a loudspeaker.

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