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Peru Election: Pedro Castillo Gains Last-Minute Lead

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Peruvian rival presidential candidates Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori
Early results show a very close race between political newcomer Pedro Castillo and household name Keiko Fujimori

Left-wing candidate Pedro Castillo has edged into the lead in a dramatic twist in Peru’s presidential election.

With 94% of votes counted, Mr Castillo overtook his right-wing rival, Keiko Fujimori, who is running for the presidency for the third time.

He has a lead of 0.1 percentage point, with just over 25,000 votes currently separating the two candidates.

They have both called for calm while the count is under way. This is Peru’s most polarised poll in recent history.

Ms Fujimori had been leading since the official count began, but as results from rural areas – where support for Mr Castillo is strong – started to come in, the gap between them narrowed.

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. Seven of the country’s last 10 leaders have either been convicted of or investigated for corruption.

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Peru at a glance

  • The country has a population of about 32 million
  • Inequality remains high, especially between those who live in urban and rural areas
  • The pandemic has hit it hard, and nearly a third of its people are now in poverty
  • It has been through a series of political crises in recent years and, last November, it was led by three presidents within the space of a week

Sources: World Bank, CIA Factbook

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Household name v political newcomer

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.

Supporters of Keiko Fujimori celebrated early results
Supporters of Keiko Fujimori celebrated early results that showed her with a narrow lead

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.

Earlier, there were scenes of celebrations outside her party’s headquarters in the capital, Lima. However electoral officials said the early results reflected 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.

Pedro Castillo, 51, is a relatively new face on the political stage, and was the unexpected winner in the first round vote in April.

Pedro Castillo waves to supporters in the town of Tacabamba, as he waits for votes to be counted
Pedro Castillo waves to supporters in the town of Tacabamba, as he waits for votes to be counted

An elementary school teacher, he is easily recognisable by his cowboy hat and oversized pencil that he campaigns with – the symbol of his Free Peru party.

He is the son of small-scale farmers and has gained the trust and support of many in the farming community and the trade union movement.

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