Peru’s National Jury of Elections (JNE) officially declared Pedro Castillo the winner of the June 6 presidential election on Monday, ending nearly two months of uncertainty over who would lead the nation.
Castillo, of the Marxist Free Peru party, won a narrow victory over perennial conservative candidate Keiko Fujimori in the June run-off vote. Castillo handily won the first round of presidential elections in April but did not pass the 50-percent threshold necessary to avoid a second round against the runner-up.
Castillo and Fujimori regularly polled within surveys’ margins of error prior to the vote and remained extremely close in vote tallies throughout the initial ballot count. The main delay in declaring Castillo the winner came from a formal petition by Fujimori’s Popular Force party to investigate evidence of ballot fraud on the part of Free Peru. Fujimori’s party contested about 500,000 votes, more than the number of votes Castillo led by at the end of the first tally.
Castillo is a schoolteacher by trade and came from behind in the first round to surprise the nation with a win in the April presidential election. Free Peru is an openly Marxist party whose manifesto praises Vladimir Lenin and Fidel Castro. Castillo himself has insisted that he is not a communist despite being a member of a Leninist party and associating with leftists who used radical speech during his campaign. Running mate Dina Boluarte, for example, warned in April that a Castillo win would mean that Lima’s middle class would “cease to be.”
Castillo has also expressed sentiments against the LGBT community consistent with radical Marxist thought throughout most of the 20th century.
The JNE is Peru’s official government body to review allegations of election fraud. Late on Monday, it announced that it did not deem the evidence compiled by Fujimori’s legal team sufficient to overturn the election. It published its result formally on Tuesday, making Castillo the nation’s president-elect. Castillo officially defeated Fujimori with a lead of only 44,263 votes out of a total 17.6 million. Voting in Peru is mandatory but voters can choose to fill out their ballots offering support to none of the candidates if they so choose.
Fujimori announced on Monday, shortly before the official declaration that Castillo had won, that should accept the results of the JNE investigation. Fujimori emphasized that she believed the evidence of fraud her party has compiled was legitimate.
“Fulfilling my commitments with all Peruvians … with the international community, I will recognize the results because that is what the law and the constitution that I swore to defend command,” Fujimori said, the latter a subtle dig at Castillo, who promised to draft an entirely new constitution as president. “The trust will end up coming to light anyway and we will work all together to reestablish legitimacy in our country.”
Fujimori emphasized that the JNE’s decision validated, in her eyes, “a process full of irregularities.”
Castillo accepted the official declaration from the JNE thanking Peruvian citizens and urging the nation’s elite to help his administration improve the nation’s economy and social development.
“For us it is a tremendous honor to greet the Peruvian people,” Castillo said. “I ask for calm, serenity for the Peruvian people – this is the responsibility not just of the government, it is the responsibility of all Peruvians. In this context, I would like to announce we are making a call to all technicians, the most distinguished and committed people in the country.”
In a more general statement posted to Twitter, Castillo directed his attention instead to ethnic and racial minorities.
“We call on the Afro, coastal, Andean, and Amazonian peoples, the working class and their unions, native and peasant communities, and all of society to make this country beautiful,” the statement read in part. “Today, brothers and sisters, begins a new era in our history.”
Convocamos a los pueblos afro, costeños, andinos y amazónicos, a la clase trabajadora y sus gremios, a las comunidades nativas, campesinas y a toda la sociedad para hacer de esta patria hermosa. Hoy, hermanas y hermanos, inicia una nueva etapa en nuestra historia. (2/2)
— Pedro Castillo Terrones (@PedroCastilloTe) July 20, 2021
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated Castillo on Tuesday and emphasized his victory in a “free and fair presidential” vote.
“The United States and Peru enjoy deep bonds between our peoples, shared values, and shared interests in democracy, security, mutually beneficial trade, and respect for human rights,” Blinken said. “Cooperation between the United States and Peru has improved public health, livelihoods, security, and environmental protections … We are eager to work with President-Elect Castillo’s administration to strengthen the U.S.-Peru relationship and move our nations toward a better future.”