With a platform that mixes left-wing populism in the economy with conservative guidelines in customs, rural teacher Pedro Castillo was confirmed by election officials on Monday (19) as the winner of the Peruvian presidential election .
Castillo got 50.12% of the valid votes, compared to 49.87% for conservative Keiko Fujimori, according to an official announcement.
There has been more than 40 days of tense vote counting and Keiko’s threats not to acknowledge defeat, alleging fraud.
Shortly before the announcement, Keiko announced that she would admit defeat as all of her appeals were dismissed.
“I announce that, fulfilling my commitments to all Peruvians, with [o escritor] Mario Vargas Llosa, with the international community, I recognize the results because it is what the law and the Constitution mandate that I have sworn to defend, “she said in a statement.
The close race is a reflection of the polarization of the country and the different profiles of the two candidates. The vote, carried out on paper ballots, took place on June 6.
While Keiko is the daughter of former dictator Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) and represents Lima’s elite, with a vision closer to neoliberalism, Castillo was born and raised in a small village in the interior of the country. , which barely appears on maps.
Coming from a poor background, the new elected president of Peru – the inauguration is scheduled for July 28 – holds a diploma in pedagogy, a master’s degree in educational psychology and teaches history and culture. Spanish in high school. At 51, he is married and has two children, who live with him in the Tacabamba neighborhood, where he was born.
Castillo began his political career in 2002, when he ran for mayor of Anguía, a town close to his place of residence. Beaten, he pursued a teaching career in rural schools in the region and ended up joining the teachers’ union. In this post, he rose to prominence in 2017, when he was one of the leaders of a national strike in the sector.
He then headed Conare, the teachers’ union, which has links to Movadef, the political arm of the leftist guerrilla Sendero Luminoso.
The war between the Peruvian state and the group claimed the lives of more than 70,000 people in the 1980s and early 1990s and only ended when militias formed by peasants in the region, known as the name of “rondes campesinas”, began to fight alongside the Army. Castillo is in favor of the action of these militias and had the support of the “ronderos” during the campaign, who are dedicated to helping poor communities in rural areas.
Interestingly, the trajectory of the new president partly resembles that of Alberto Fujimori. When he was first elected in 1990, he was also an unknown name to Lima’s elite and only achieved victory thanks to the support he received in corners of the country.
Even today, there is a certain nostalgia for Fujimorism in these regions – for the visits the former president has made and for the credit he receives for pacifying the region, ending the war against the Sendero.
But that memory was not enough to revive Keiko’s vote in the poorest parts of the country in Sunday’s elections. Castillo received over 90% of the vote in parts of the interior, while the dictator’s daughter ended up doing better on the coast and in major urban centers like Lima.
Although he tops most polls, Castillo’s victory is somewhat surprising – he will be the first Peruvian president without ties to political, economic and cultural elites.
In addition, the professor and union leader spent most of the first round in the lantern of the contest, which had 18 candidates. It wasn’t until the home stretch that his name started to rise in the polls, mostly due to wear and tear on the top-place image. When the ballot boxes were opened there was an even bigger surprise: Castillo received 18.9% of the vote and ended up in the lead – Keiko placed second with 13.4%, ahead of compatriot Rafael López Aliaga.
In the second round, the two roles were reversed, she left behind in the polls of voting intentions. Castillo’s margin, which in early polls topped ten percentage points, gradually melted and the two eventually hit a technical draw.
The ferocity was proven in the tally, in which Keiko started up front, pushed by the big city vote. As the votes from the interior and more remote areas were counted, Castillo diminished the advantage, turning the tide. The opponent even claimed that she was the victim of fraud, but international observers said they found no evidence that could alter the result and that the election was clean.
Still, the fact that the dispute is so close and accusations of irregularities in the electoral process could cause even more instability in the country – Castillo will be the fifth to hold the presidency since 2018.
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, known as PPK, resigned that year, accusing the opposition of creating an “ungovernable climate”. His successor, Martín Vizcarra, was removed from his post in November 2020 after facing two impeachment proceedings on charges of receiving bribes, which would place him in the category of ” moral incapacity “, preventing his continuation in office.
As a result, MP Manuel Merino de Lama took over, for only six days, who resigned after the episodes of violence that followed the institutional crisis. The country’s current leader, Francisco Sagasti, has taken power on an interim basis and is expected to remain in office until the transition to the new government.
In addition, a series of scandals have hit most of the Peruvian political elite in recent years. Alberto Fujimori is in prison for crimes against humanity, for example, while Keiko is under investigation for corruption and has been arrested. Now that she has lost the presidential race again – she was also beaten in the second round in 2011 and 2016 – she will likely stand trial in this case and may have to return to prison.
Also indicted for corruption involving the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht are former presidents Alejandro Toledo (who commanded the country from 2001 to 2006 and who is in custody), Ollanta Humala (term from 2011 to 2016, who served spent six months in prison) and himself PPK (2016-2018). In addition, former agent Alan García (1985-1990 and 2006-2011) committed suicide as police prepared to arrest him in 2019.
In large part, the string of scandals helped spur the candidacy of Castillo, who named the fight against corruption as one of his campaign banners. Now that he has been elected, however, he may find it difficult to move his proposals forward and even stay in office. This is because his party, Free Peru, will only have 37 members of Congress in Parliament, which has 130 seats. Although the acronym is the largest bench in the House, it does not have enough votes to pass laws or prevent an impeachment process – it takes 87 votes to impeach the president.
The second legislative force, which is unicameral, will be the People’s Force (of Keiko), with 24 seats. Ação Popular and Aliança para o Progresso, both on the right, will have 16 and 15 representatives respectively. Leftists Somos Peru and Podemos Peru will have 5 each.
Thus, the new president will need the support of rival acronyms to approve his plans and try to get the country out of the current crisis. Peru currently has the highest death rate in the world from the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 185,000 deaths out of a population of 33 million. Last year, the health situation forced the economy to be semi-paralyzed for more than 100 days, resulting in a recession and a drop in GDP of 11.12%.
To solve the problem, the newly elected president has vowed to strengthen the role of the state, get a bigger share of the profits of mining companies and nationalize essential industries. He also advocates higher salaries for employees in the education sector and proposes to dissolve the Constitutional Court and the 1993 Constitution – according to him, those responsible for corruption in the country.
In foreign policy, he also has a more left-wing discourse, with statements in favor of the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela. Christian, Castillo switches sides in the so-called behavioral guidelines, adopting more conservative positions. He is against expanding the rights of the LGBTQ community – such as liberating same-sex marriage – against teaching gender equality in schools and against abortion, among others.
Why did the result have to come out?
The second round of the election took place on June 6, contested by leftist Pedro Castillo and right-hander Keiko Fujimori, after a first round which presented a minimal gap between the first candidates of Castillo on Keiko: 50.1% to 49.8%, a difference of about 44,000 votes Contrary to what it had promised, the right did not accept the result and filed a request for revision of 300,000 votes and cancellation of 200,000 others, which triggered a process within the national electoral jury to examine this candidacy. formally, because they were filed after the deadline. During this process, the allies of Castillo and Keiko put pressure on the court, which delayed the work. One of the consequences of this pressure was the resignation of one of the members of the JNE. On Monday (19), the JNE announced that it had dismissed the five appeals filed by Keiko’s party and that the results would also be published on Monday. Even before the statement, the right-wing said it would recognize the decision of the electoral tribunal.