Lima (AP) – End of a hanging game: Six weeks after the second round, the electoral court has named left-wing candidate Pedro Castillo as Peru’s new president. The candidate of the Marxist-Leninist party Perú Libre took 50.12 percent of the vote, the electoral court announced on Monday. The right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori got 49.87 percent in the extremely tight second round of the election.
The electoral court has been faced with a number of complaints and appeals in recent weeks, especially from the Fujimori camp, which delayed the winner’s proclamation by about a month and a half. In the end, there were just over 44,000 votes between the two opponents.
As an outsider against the elite
Castillo’s election victory is a resounding slap in the face to the political elite in Lima. An absolute outsider, he had won the first round of voting in April and before the start of his campaign, the 51-year-old didn’t even have a Twitter account.
He comes from a farming family in Chota province in the north of the country and led a teachers’ strike in 2017. The government accused him of having connections with sympathizers of the left-wing rebel group Shining Path. In his youth, however, he is said to have been a member of a farmers’ organization for self-defense to protect against the rebels.
Socialist state as an election promise
Little is known about his political beliefs and his government team. He announced that in the event of an election victory, he would build a socialist state, control the media and abolish the constitutional court. During the election campaign, he also campaigned for state reforms, the restructuring of the pension system and the nationalization of the gas industry.
The stock markets collapsed after the first signs of the left-wing candidate’s victory. After Castillo’s triumph, observers fear capital flight by foreign investors. Until now, Peru has been considered very market liberal in the region. The future president’s economic advisers were quick to assure that Castillo had more in common with Brazil’s ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva than with Venezuela’s ex-socialist head of state Hugo Chavez.
Castillo stands for rural Peru
Actually, Castillo was a stopgap solution. He was only chosen as the top candidate of the Marxist-Leninist party Perú Libre because party leader Vladimir Cerrón was not allowed to participate due to a conviction for corruption.
Castillo represents rural Peru, people far from urban centers, said political scientist Gonzalo Gang of the newspaper “El Comercio”. In recent years, farmers and indigenous peoples in particular have hardly benefited from the strong economic growth in Peru and often still live in abject poverty. Castillo rode horseback to election campaign dates in villages, repeatedly dressed in traditional dress with a wide-brimmed hat and poncho.
Hate the Fujimori family?
In addition, he must have taken advantage of the fact that many Peruvians deeply dislike ex-president Alberto Fujimori, whose political daughter Keiko has never seriously distanced himself. The former ruler is serving a 25-year prison term for serious human rights violations. During his tenure (1990-2000), Fujimori’s security forces took rigorous action against leftist and allegedly subversive forces, and parliament became powerless. In addition, tens of thousands of indigenous women were forcibly sterilized.
After the divorce of the parents, Keiko Fujimori was considered the first lady for many years and accompanied her father on numerous trips abroad. In an election victory, she wanted to pardon her father.
But even though Castillo and Fujimori face opposing extremes on a political scale, they are not far apart in their sociopolitical views: Castillo also represents a conservative view of the family and is against same-sex marriage and abortion. Like his neoliberal opponent, he relies on the exploitation of natural resources and attaches little importance to the protection of the environment or human rights.
The challenges for the new president are enormous: Peru is suffering particularly hard from the corona pandemic. It is one of the countries with the highest death rate in the world and its economy collapsed by 12.9 percent. In the interior, splinter groups of the guerrilla organization Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) are still active.
Fragmented party landscape
Last year was also marked by a bitter conflict between the government and Congress. Although Castillos Perú Libre is the strongest party in parliament, it does not have a majority of its own. Congress has far-reaching rights in Peru, parliamentarians have kicked three presidents from office since 2018. Should Castillo fail to integrate large parts of the fragmented party landscape, the next showdown will not be long in coming.