Keiko Fujimori, a conservative opposition leader in Peru, will challenge the “radical leftist” Pedro Castillo for the Peruvian presidency in a runoff election in June after Peru’s latest presidential election on Sunday failed to produce a 51 percent majority for any presidential candidate.
“With over two-thirds of ballots counted by lunchtime Monday, leftist Pedro Castillo was in the lead with 17.49 percent – much higher than predicted by opinion polls which had not even placed him in the top five,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on April 12. Peruvian newspaper El Comercio counted 18.5 percent of the vote for Castillo as of Monday.
Fujimori gained 14.5 percent of Sunday’s vote, followed by economist Hernando de Soto of the right-wing Avanza País party with 10.7 percent of the vote, and staunch Catholic Rafael López Aliaga of the conservative Renovación Popular party with 12.2 percent of the vote.
Fujimori, founder and president of the conservative Fuerza Popular party, sent the following message to her fellow right-wing presidential candidate de Soto via social media Monday:
I want to send my greetings to Mr. Hernando de Soto. We have seen the initial result [of the election suggesting] there will be a technical draw and we have to wait with prudence for the quick [vote] count and the ONPE’s [National Office of the Electoral Processes] own official count, but I think that beyond the differences [between our parties], there are also great coincidences: the defense of the [Peruvian] Constitution and our idea of what type of model for the country we want to have.
The June 6 runoff will mark the third time Keiko Fujimori has contested a Peruvian presidential election. The daughter of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was narrowly defeated in previous presidential election runoffs in 2011 and 2016. Fujimori’s participation in Peru’s latest presidential election is especially remarkable as she is currently out on bail amid an ongoing investigation into her 2011 presidential campaign, for which she allegedly received illicit funding.
“Fujimori is accused of accepting $1.2 million in illicit party funding from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht for her unsuccessful 2011 presidential election campaign,” AFP noted in January 2020 when a Peruvian court ordered the former first daughter to return to prison for 15 months’ pre-trial detention as part of an investigation into the Odebrecht scandal. Prior to her remanding, Fujimori had already spent 13 months in pre-trial detention and was released in November 2019, “but anti-corruption prosecutors had appealed that decision by the Constitutional Court.” Fujimori, 45, was released on bail most recently last May after Peru’s Supreme Court revoked her 15-month pre-trial detention sentence from January 2020 on an appeal after she had served just three months.
The Odebrecht corruption scandal, which involves bribes to former heads of state and government ministers, reaches beyond Peru into other Latin American countries including Ecuador and Brazil, where the company was headquartered. Odebrecht has allegedly paid $788 million in bribes across 12 countries, according to the U.S Justice Department. The Brazilian construction firm has admitted to paying at least $29 million in bribes to Peruvian government officials, including former presidents, since 2004.
Keiko Fujimori’s father, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for human rights abuses after a Peruvian court in 2009 found him responsible for the massacres of people he labeled terrorists in 1991 and 1992. Alberto Fujimori served as Peru’s president from 1990-2000. Keiko told Peru’s América Televisión in January she would pardon her father, now 82, if she was elected president of Peru in April. The April 11 vote, now headed for a June 6 runoff, will determine Peru’s fifth president in five years as the country’s government continues to battle political turmoil. Peru was left without a leader in November 2020 after Manuel Marino stepped down from his role as President of Peru after serving just five days in office.
Keiko’s vow to pardon her father if she is elected president highlights decades of loyalty to him. Keiko sided with Alberto in 1994 after he split from Keiko’s mother, Susana Higuchi, and stripped her of the first lady title for accusing him of corruption. Susana and Alberto finalized their divorce in 1996. In Susana’s absence, Keiko took over as Peru’s first lady at just 19 years old.