Sunday 24 September 2023

Opinion: Peru’s electoral drama is damaging democracy

Peru's presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori is using legal means in a bid to avert her election defeat. It's reminiscent of the dirty tricks of former US President Trump, says DW's Isaac Risco.

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Q REPORTS (DW) In Peru, the left-wing village school teacher Pedro Castillo has in all probability been elected the new president. The fact that he cannot yet be officially declared the winner of the election is partly due to the extremely close result.

Peru’s presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori is using legal means in a bid to avert her election defeat. It’s reminiscent of the dirty tricks of former US President Trump, says DW’s Isaac Risco.

Another obstacle, however, is that Castillo’s opponent, right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori, refuses to acknowledge her election defeat.

Shortly before the end of counting, Fujimori, a highly controversial figure, issued an unprecedented number of complaints against partial results of last Sunday’s runoff presidential election. Just before the end of the deadline to raise legal objections, Fujimori, helped by a battery of lawyers, filed an appeal with electoral authorities to annul the results at 802 polling stations, which she says is the equivalent of 200,000 votes.

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She also asked for another 300,000 votes to be reviewed, so “half a million votes are in play,” she said at a press conference.

Unsubstantiated accusations of fraud

Castillo seems on track to win the election. With more than 99% of the ballots counted, Castillo is ahead by about 71,000 votes, and Fujimori can practically no longer catch up. One reason for this is that the few votes still to be counted come primarily from poor, rural regions, where Castillo has so far won hands down.

Fujimori has forcefully and publicly presented her allegations of alleged systematic electoral fraud favoring her opponent. Except for isolated cases of irregularities, however, she has not presented any evidence. On Monday, international observers praised the election as transparent and fair. The chairman of the top election watchdog has spoken of an extraordinary number of complaints, but promised that they would be resolved. This could now take days or even weeks.

Meanwhile, anger is growing on the streets. Supporters of both camps have been protesting daily, claiming victory in the elections. Of course, Fujimori has a right to legally challenge the election results if her opponent has illegally obtained votes. So far, however, there are many indications that she will just do whatever it takes to grab power, even if it means democracy suffers in the process. Her behavior is strongly reminiscent of the way Donald Trump tried to prevent the election victory of his challenger, current US President Joe Biden, at the end of 2020.

A lack of trust in both candidates

Peru has had an extremely polarized presidential election. Millions of Peruvians mistrust both candidates. Pedro Castillo holds left-wing populist views and at times has shown little respect for democratic institutions. Keiko Fujimori, who is the daughter of the country’s former authoritarian leader Alberto Fujimori, is also problematic. She has defended her father’s corrupt and autocratic regime between 1990 and 2000 and is herself accused of corruption.

But by blocking the results of the country’s presidential election, Keiko Fujimori now seems to confirm the worst fears of her critics. Her disproportionately greater financial power and her strong backing among most of the country’s elites make her the greater threat to Peru’s fragile democracy.

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This article has been translated from German.

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