Peru Presidential Elections Too Close to Call

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

On 23 May, an attack in central Peru killed 16 people, including four children. The rest of the city has been plastered with pro-Castillo banners, without a single pro-Fujimori sign to be seen. Politics have turned increasingly volatile in the Andean region after Covid-19 overwhelmed shoddy healthcare systems and sank rickety economies into deep recessions.

As a result, the official toll nearly trebled to more than 180,000. On Sunday, however, he said he would respect the result. Her pledge to protect a free economy and democracy has won backing mainly from businesspeople and the wealthy.

As a relatively new face on the political stage, the 51-year-old has attracted intense media scrutiny since his victory in the first round. Polls suggest he has strong support in those areas outside the capital, Lima.

Castillo, an outsider candidate, barely gained a lead against his rival overnight as votes came in from rural areas of the country. She is a former congresswoman and was the runner-up in the 2011 and 2016 presidential election run-offs.

But his government collapsed amid accusations of grand-scale corruption and he is now serving a 25-year jail sentence for ordering the extrajudicial killings of suspected subversives, most of whom turned out to have nothing to do with Shining Path.

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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". She has said that if she is elected, she will pardon her father.

Keiko Fujimori 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) - promising a tough line against crime and corruption.

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. He has also said he wants to rewrite the country's constitution "to end all inequalities", and that "human rights have to be a priority".

Castillo, who launched his political bid with a Marxist party and was virtually unknown at the start of the year, ran on a platform of extracting more taxes from multinational miners and oil drillers to increase outlays on education and health.

After accusing her rival's party of fraud, Ms Fujimori struck a more optimistic note, saying that the tables could still turn ones the votes from Peruvians overseas were counted.

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