As it becomes increasingly clear that leftist Pedro Castillo has won the presidential election in Peru, losing right wing candidate Keiko Fujimori has gone full Trump in denying her loss, demanding that some votes be cancelled, and claiming to be the rightful winner.
The prospect of the son of illiterate Andean peasants becoming president as his rival cries fraud has shaken Peru’s entrenched class system and its fragile democracy, letting loose a torrent of racism in the bicentennial year of the country’s independence.
With 100% of the official vote counted, leftist Pedro Castillo had 50.12% – and advantage of about 44,000 votes over his far-right rival Keiko Fujimori. But Fujimori has claimed fraud, challenging about 500,000 votes, calling for half to be annulled, and obliging officials at Peru’s electoral board to reexamine ballots – despite the lack of evidence of wrongdoing.
Two weeks after the election, which national and international observers said was transparent, the stance of Keiko Fujimori – the daughter of jailed 1990s autocrat Alberto Fujimori – has emboldened the far right, who have vowed not to accept the election results.
“The tension has reached a breaking point,” said José Ragas, a Peruvian historian at Chile’s Catholic University. “The Lima elite is not just trying to keep power – it’s not just that they don’t want to recognise the victory of Pedro Castillo – but they are trying to cancel the rural vote.”
As officials at Peru’s electoral board work overtime to reinspect the disputed ballots, social media and partisan news broadcasters have helped spread fake news stirring up the spectre of totalitarian rule, violence and even mass expropriations if Castillo is declared the winner amid rumblings of coup plots among the far-right.
On Friday, Peru’s interim president Francisco Sagasti slammed as “unacceptable” a letter signed by nearly a hundred retired military officers urging the armed forces not to recognise Castillo if he takes office. “They want to incite top commanders of the Army, Navy, and Air force to break the rule of law,” he said in an address to the nation.
It looks like there are serious efforts underway to create the conditions for a coup to prevent Castillo from taking power.