Victor likely to have a weak mandate

PERU - Report 14 Jun 2021 by Alfredo Thorne

Most commentators expected a close result in the June 6th presidential election second-round runoff between Keiko Fujimori of Fuerza Popular and Pedro Castillo of Perú Libre. But few foresaw the razor’s-edge margin that would ultimately mean that the Jurado Nacional de Elecciones (JNE, the Electoral Tribunal) would be called upon to decide the result. The situation brings to mind those of the Florida recount in the 2000 U.S. presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush (which ended with Bush taking office) and of Mexico in 2006, between Felipe Calderón and Andrés Manuel López Obrador (with Calderón ultimately declared the winner).

At this writing, on June 13th, and with 100% of the unchallenged votes counted, Castillo had obtained 50.1% of the valid vote, ahead of the 49.9% obtained by Fujimori (a difference of 49,420 votes). Although this vote difference was larger than the 41,057 that separated Pedro Pablo Kuczysnki and Fujimori in the 2016 presidential runoff, 56 electoral records were sent to the JNE for their final revision; these contain about 12,971 votes. Moreover, this figure does not consider electoral records sent to the JNE that have already been reviewed; in fact, the number of records initially sent to the JNE topped 1,300. These files agglomerate 10 different types of records collated by the Oficina Nacional de Procesos Electorales (ONPE, the institution in charge of organizing elections and vote counting). The most relevant are the impugned votes by political parties at voting stations. Legislation mandates that all impugned votes be separated from the official vote count. According to the ONPE, these accounted for 47 of the 56 electoral records; moreover, most of the impugned votes were cast for Perú Libre in the states or provinces where Fuerza Popular already had a majority.

The closeness of the contest has prompted both political parties to take a careful look at the electoral records and, unsurprisingly, each has found irregularities in the vote counting. Electoral legislation grants political parties three days after Election Day in which to denounce irregularities. With most of the votes counted and voting trends apparent, denouncing irregularities may seem more a Trump-style attempt to disrupt electoral proceedings than to comprise genuine allegations of election-rigging. Careful analysis of the challenged electoral records and the irregularities denounced by each political party supports this. Fuerza Popular has called for the voiding of 881 electoral records (about 191,000 votes) in Perú Libre strongholds; Perú Libre, in turn, has questioned 333 electoral records (about 60,860 votes), in regions where Fuerza Popular has an advantage.

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