On June 6, Peru held the second round of elections that will determine the country’s next president. After 30 days, however, the official result has yet to be announced, and the country’s future remains undefined.
The telenovela continues despite the fact that the Onpe, the country’s electoral body, has completed the vote count, which portends a victory for leftist Pedro Castillo. According to the poll, he finished the race with 44,000 votes ahead of radical right leader Keiko Fujimori – in a universe of more than 20 million voters.
For this reason, Castillo has previously acted as president-elect, discussing deals and negotiating his government’s assembly. The official announcement of his victory has yet to come as Keiko alleges there was a series of irregularities in the election and asked the court to challenge 802 minutes of the vote.
The National Electoral Jury (JNE) has already invalidated most of these requests, mainly formally, as they were submitted after the deadline. Thus, there are about thirty complaints from the candidate’s campaign which are still being analyzed by the agency. The JNE promises to resolve the issue and announce the winner by the 28th, when the new president is due to take office.
A delay in the announcement could increase political uncertainty in Peru, as current interim president Francisco Sagasti cannot remain in office past the deadline, marking the end of his term.
If the successor is not defined, who should assume the presidency provisionally, according to the Constitution, is the head of Congress. The problem is that the post has been vacant since Sagasti himself stepped down to become the country’s leader, after a long crisis that toppled the three previous presidents.
This scenario would force the House to conduct an internal vote to choose a new leader, who would then assume the presidency if the winner of the election is not determined on time. “It is an improbable scenario and one which would bring more instability to the situation in which we find ourselves”, declares the political scientist Fernando Tuesta. “The JNE can and must deliver the results before the deadline, as promised.”
During these 30 days, the allies of Castillo and Keiko put pressure on the court, delaying the work. The two sides also demonstrated almost every night in Lima, where the JNE is based.
One of the consequences of this pressure was the resignation of Luis Arce — the namesake of the Bolivian president, but unrelated — from the JNE. The only court judge to argue that Keiko has the right to appeal after the deadline, he was replaced by Víctor Raúl Rodríguez Monteza.
In the midst of this scenario, the country was outraged by the resurgence of one of the most controversial figures in Peruvian politics: Vladimiro Montesinos, former head of the intelligence service of the dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), Keiko’s father. At 76, Montesinos is being held in Callao Penitentiary after being sentenced to 25 years in prison for corruption and participation in a series of massacres perpetrated by the paramilitary group Colina, which operated under his command.
Due to these scandals, many Peruvians believed he was already a card of the game.
In recent weeks, however, audios have been released in which Montesinos speaks from prison with a retired soldier about possible bribery of JNE judges to secure Keiko’s victory. The former intelligence chief’s interference charges are under investigation by the country’s attorney general’s office and, at least for now, none of the court’s judges have been dismissed for involvement in the case.
Even so, the release of the audios served to show Peruvian public opinion that Fujimorism worked behind the scenes to help elect Keiko. Among the leaked conversations there are also dialogues in which Montesinos discusses political strategies with Kenji, the candidate’s brother.
On the other hand, Castillo signaled that he would leave the more radical discourse on the left and intends to adopt, as president, a more moderate tone. Despite his insistence on reforming the Constitution and establishing a new electoral tribunal, he said he would respect the current Charter, Congress and private property.
It’s a much softer stance than those featured in the campaign, during which it scared off the major mining companies operating in the country. Peru has copper, oil and other natural resources as its main export products, and rumors of a nationalization of the type promoted by Evo Morales in Bolivia have alarmed Chinese, American, Spanish and Canadian companies.
In another sign to calm the international market, Castillo said he will ask Julio Velarde, the current president of the Central Bank, to continue in office, indicating continuity in macroeconomic policy.
In this area, Castillo entrusted the case to Pedro Francke, an adviser who defends a model for Peru similar to that of the Frente Amplio, a left-wing coalition that ruled Uruguay for 15 years.
“It is possible that he wants to strike a balance between macroeconomic stability and social justice, as in Uruguay, but Ollanta Humala also tried this strategy in Peru. It did not work,” said political scientist Steven Levitsky. “Because Humala, like Castillo, only has executive power and is weak before the judiciary and the legislature. It will be very difficult in the absence of consensus and strong parties.”
Castillo has, however, already obtained the support of two politicians: Veronika Mendoza, from the left, and Julio Guzmán, from the center, who can help him set up his cabinet, which should be announced in the coming days.
On the other hand, the opponents of the virtual elected representatives see with concern the figure of Vladimir Cerrón, president of Free Peru, the party of Castillo. More radical and leader of “ronderos” groups – a paramilitary group very present inside and following a more dated left-wing agenda, dating back to the 1970s – he saw an accusation of corruption fall last week, leaving him free to hold on. public service. So he can lead one of the ministries, even if his name causes great divisions even on the left.
Meanwhile, Keiko appealed to Sagasti to ask the OAS (Organization of American States) for an audit of the electoral process. The interim president refused, alleging, among other things, that the organization itself had already followed the ballot without detecting any irregularities. Besides the OAS, independent observers and the US government said the election went well.
The current Minister of Justice, Eduardo Vega, also declared that the government, “due to the principle of neutrality, must respect the institutions of the state and, therefore, will not comply with the request”. Previously, Sagasti had already refused to receive a letter from retired soldiers with more than 100 signatures in favor of holding a new election in the country.