Peru faces polarizing presidential runoff as teacher surprises voters | Peru

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Peru faces a polarizing presidential runoff, in which a far-left schoolteacher – who has caught a wave of popular discontent over the coronavirus and a cratered economy – will take on the far-right heiress of the country. one of the most enduring and controversial political dynasties in the country.

Pedro Castillo, a veteran of the teachers’ union, surprised pollsters and voters in Sunday’s first round with 18.47%, with 84% of the official vote counted. In second place, Keiko Fujimori – daughter of former jailed leader Alberto Fujimori – polled 13.12%, closely followed by two other far-right candidates.

Castillo – who was largely unknown before election day – stunned the country by garnering votes in the country’s poorest regions, winning 16 of Peru’s 24 regions and more than 50 percent in two of the Andean states. poor.

“The blindfold has just been removed from the eyes of the Peruvian people,” he told jubilant supporters from a balcony in his hometown of Tacabamba, in the highlands of Cajamarca.

Keiko Fujimori greets during a speech at party headquarters in Lima, Peru, April 11.
Keiko Fujimori greets during a speech at party headquarters in Lima, Peru, April 11. Photograph: Sebastian Castaneda / Reuters

“We are often told that only political scientists, constitutionalists, learned politicians, those with great degrees can rule a country. They had enough time, ”he said to applause as people danced in the streets.

Castillo became a leading figure in a 2017 teachers’ strike for salaries, and in October he announced he would run for president of the left-wing Perú Libre party, after campaigning at the local level.

But in opinion polls ahead of the election, he had only managed to make the list of the top six candidates days before the vote. It barely registered 3% in a poll taken in mid-March.

Adriana Urrutia, a political scientist who heads the pro-democracy organization Transparencia, said: “Her anti-system rhetoric has managed to capture all the discontent, anger and concern of the electorate affected by the pandemic.

“In Peru, inequality translates into political options. Much of the population has many unsupervised demands in places where the state does not go and mainstream politicians do not represent.

Castillo has tapped into public anger over rampant political corruption and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Peru has one of the worst death rates from Covid-19 in the world, with an excess mortality rate nearly three times the official figure of nearly 55,000 deaths.

Keiko Fujimori, like his father, a very controversial figure, had promised an “iron fist” approach to crime and corruption. She herself is under investigation for money laundering, which she denies, and has spent months behind bars in pre-trial detention. His father ruled Peru in the 1990s and was convicted of death squad murders and rampant corruption.

The prospect of a polarized race does not bode well for the recovery of Peru’s battered economy into spiraling unemployment and poverty, says Fiona Mackie, Economist Intelligence Unit regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“It is clear that the political environment in Peru, which has been very unstable for years, will deteriorate if anything does,” she said.

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