UN rights chief urges ‘calm’ as Peru still waits for vote results

Leftist presidential contender Pedro Castillo widely expected to win, but official results not yet announced.

Supporters of Peru presidential candidate Pedro Castillo carry a Peruvian flag outside the National Jury of Elections, in Lima, Peru on June 11 [Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters]

The United Nations human rights chief has urged Peruvians to “remain calm” as the official results of a deeply polarised presidential runoff have yet to be released, more than a week after the vote was held across the Andean nation.

In a statement on Monday, Michelle Bachelet said she was “concerned that what should be a celebration of democracy is becoming a source of division, which is in turn widening the fracture in Peruvian society with negative human rights implications”.

She also expressed concern that election officials were being harassed.

“If the rules of democracy are not accepted before, during and after the elections, social cohesion can dangerously crack,” said Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights .

Millions of Peruvians headed to the polls on June 6 to choose between leftist teachers’ union leader Pedro Castillo and right-wing Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of jailed ex-President Alberto Fujimori.

The election came amid deep political divisions in Peru, which is struggling to cope with surging COVID-19 infections and deaths, as well as a pandemic-related economic downturn.

Castillo is widely expected to be declared the winner; with nearly all the ballots counted, he had 50.14 percent support and a narrow lead of fewer than 50,000 votes over Fujimori.

She has alleged fraud, without providing any evidence to back up her claims, and has been seeking to annul many of the votes.

International observers have said the election was carried out without any serious irregularities.

It is still unclear when the country’s electoral body will formally announce the winner, though Castillo has called for the count to be wrapped up quickly to end the uncertainty.

But Peru’s National Elections Jury (JNE), which resolves disputes and proclaims the winner, is reviewing challenges to tens of thousands of votes cast at 165 polling stations countrywide – 151 of them disputed by Fujimori, and 14 by Castillo. That process could take several days.

In the meantime, Peruvians are anxiously waiting to see who will be the country’s next president, taking over at a time of deep political divisions and a coronavirus crisis.

Supporters of Peru’s presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori gather during a demonstration in Lima on June 12 [Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters]

Magaly Roca, who was listening to a radio programme on the vote count in her corner store in Lima, the capital, said she had voted for Castillo in the second round although he was not initially her preferred candidate.

“She’s been putting up too many obstacles,” Roca told the Reuters news agency, referring to Fujimori. “All the time she had the majority in Congress, she blocked everything. She’s the reason we haven’t moved forward before. I don’t consider her capable of ruling.”

Carlos Gurmendi, who works as a porter in a residential district, said he had reluctantly cast his vote for Fujimori. “I voted for the lesser of two evils,” the 66-year-old said.

Marches by supporters of both candidates have broken out in Lima during the past week, with some voters in favour of Castillo arriving in the capital from rural areas to protest and Fujimori supporters backing her accusations of fraud.

Source: News Agencies