Supporters of socialist Pedro Castillo and conservative Keiko Fujimori took to the streets by the thousands in Peru on Saturday, as tensions rose over the result of a June 6 presidential election.
Castillo, who received 50.125 percent of the vote with a difference of 44,058 ballots, has declared himself the winner.
Fujimori got 49.875 percent of the votes and has made claims of large-scale election fraud.
In Peru’s capital, Lima, supporters of Castillo gathered at the “2 de Mayo” square, calling for the left-wing candidate to be formally announced as president-elect.
Fujimori’s supporters also held a rival demonstration in a different part of the city demanding the annulment of the run-off election.
The National Jury of Elections says it is still reviewing votes and is yet to declare a winner.
“We are not going to allow them to ignore the popular will, to ignore the electoral result. We are going to defend democracy,” said Veronika Mendoza, a former leftist presidential candidate who attended the rally for Castillo.
“Unfortunately, Mrs. “K” [Keiko Fujimori] is a corrupt woman who should not be president and should accept her defeat because what won here is the democracy, the fair vote of the people,” said Ruben, another pro-Castillo demonstrator.
International observers have said there is no evidence of fraud and that the election was clean.
Pollster Ipsos Peru also said it had done a statistical analysis of the ballots and found no evidence of abnormal voting patterns that would have benefitted one candidate over the other.
But Fujimori, daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, showed no signs of relenting.
“We are not going to accept our votes being stolen,” she told her supporters in Lima.
“We’ll give our lives for the country; it’s not about Keiko, it’s about Peru, no to terrorism, no to communism,” said Nancy Falla, who attended the pro-Fujimori rally.
The tense vote count is the culmination of a bitterly divisive election in Peru, where many low-income citizens supported Castillo while mostly wealthier ones voted for Fujimori.
The opposing candidates have pledged vastly different remedies for rescuing Peru from the economic doldrums brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Andean country has the worst coronavirus death rate in the world, recording almost 190,000 deaths among its 33 million population.
Two million Peruvians have also lost their jobs during the pandemic and nearly a third of the country now lives in poverty, according to official figures.
Fujimori, 46, has pledged to follow the free-market model and maintain economic stability, while Castillo, 51, has promised to redraft the country’s constitution to strengthen the role of the state, take a larger portion of profits from mining firms and nationalise key industries – Peru is the world’s second-biggest producer of copper.