Peru choosing between 2 populist candidates in presidential run-offs

Peru choosing between 2 populist candidates in presidential run-offs

Peru choosing between 2 populist candidates in presidential run-offs

Right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori held a narrow lead over radical leftist Pedro Castillo following a partial vote count in Peru's presidential election on Sunday.

Uncertainty has gripped this country ahead of what polls have predicted will be a very close race.

Alberto Fujimori remains revered by some in Peru for presiding over the crushing of the Shining Path, who slaughtered almost 40,000 people, a lot of them from impoverished indigenous communities in the Andes and Amazon.

Whoever wins will take leadership of a nation in crisis, suffering from recession and with the worst coronavirus fatality rate in the world after recording more than 1,84,000 deaths among its 33 million population.

Castillo emerged as the front-runner from April's first round after unexpectedly beating out a field of 17 other candidates, but he did so with less than 19% of the vote to Fujimori's score of just over 13%.

Fujimori, 46, the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, is promising to maintain economic stability and pro-free market policies in the world's second-largest copper producer. Both Mr Castillo and Ms Fujimori condemned the attack.

Peruvian President Francisco Sagasti urged citizens to "consolidate democracy" by voting in the elections.

"The country is divided ideologically into two blocs", Jorge Montoya, a congressman-elect for the conservative Popular Renovation Party, said in a TV interview on Sunday evening. Polls suggest he has strong support in rural areas outside the capital, Lima.

Piero Corvetto, head of Peru's top electoral body (ONPE) warned that many polling stations from rural areas - Castillo's stronghold - had yet to be tallied.

Critics of the left-wing candidate fear he could radically reform the country and have waged negative social media campaigns against him, describing him as a "communist" and labelling him as a sympathiser of the Shining Path. Mr Castillo has repeatedly denied any ties to the group or to its political sympathisers.

Fujimori herself has been imprisoned as part of a corruption probe, but was later released.

In a news conference, Ms Fujimori alleged that there had been a "strategy by Peru Libre [Free Peru, the party of Mr Castillo] to distort and delay the results which reflect the popular will". He is seeking to rewrite the constitution that was approved under the leadership of Fujimori's father so that "human rights have to be a priority" and "to end all inequalities".

She says that if she becomes president, her government would be a demodura, a play on the Spanish words for democracia (democracy) and mano dura (hard hand).

Seeking to appeal to Peru's poor and underprivileged, Fujimori has promised various bonuses to people, including a $2,500 one-time payment to each family with at least one COVID-19 victim.

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