Castillo’s Victory Represents Changes in Peruvian Politics, but Fujimori Won’t Accept it so Easily
Friday, June 11, 2021
Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Changes are about to happen in Peru. Pedro Castillo’s victory represents not only a rise of the political left in the South American country, but also the possible beginning of a new era in the continental politics, with the resurgence of a political alternative combining social agendas of the left and conservative principles in the moral field. In parallel, there is a strong tendency for the Peruvian state to suffer from continuous instability due to allegations of fraud by Keiko Fujimori – which will certainly be endorsed by international agents interested in the victory of the political right.
Peru’s National Electoral Processes Office (ONPE) finalized vote counting on Thursday, declaring Peru Libre’s candidate Pedro Castillo the winner against Fuerza Popular’s Keiko Fujimori. Castillo got 51% of the votes, while Fujimori got 49%, according to ONPE data. The winner’s advantage is small, but it reveals a strong polarization in Peruvian society, whose social, cultural, and racial reflexes are evident: Castillo accumulates votes from the poor population, workers, peasants and indigenous people, while Fujimori represents the interests of the economic elites, having its electoral base in the great metropolises and in the Peruvian population living abroad.
The most curious point of the dispute is that Castillo’s victory still does not define who will be the new president. Keiko has vehemently challenged the election results, alleging fraud in the vote-checking process. On Wednesday, the right-wing candidate asked electoral authorities to annul 802 ballot boxes – corresponding to around 200,000 votes. In addition, more than 500,000 votes are being revised, which could change the result of the elections in the coming days.
However, the probability of Keiko’s claims being true is extremely low. The organization responsible for supervising the Peruvian elections, the National Elections Jury, stated that the Observer Mission of the Inter-American Union of Electoral Bodies has already presented a report in which it concludes that the counting of votes took place in a regular manner. The same conclusion was made by the Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States. Apparently, the allegations of fraud are just a tactic by Fujimori, who, faced with an evident electoral defeat, tries to gain an advantage by delegitimizing her opponent’s victory and creating a scenario of chaos and polarization. It is unlikely that any electoral crime will be proven, but Keiko will certainly continue to constantly allege fraud, creating instability and a crisis of legitimacy in national politics.
However, considering that Castillo becomes Peru’s new president on July 28, the date that marks 200 years of Peruvian independence and was chosen for the presidential inauguration, we can expect real changes in Peruvian society and in the entire South American political scenario. A representative of the working class, Castillo materializes the emergence of a populist left, completely disconnected from the ideological line of the great South American left parties. A fervent Catholic and defender of popular traditions, Castillo defends several agendas that until then were supported only by right-wing politicians, being absolutely against abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and gender equality policies. For this reason, the Western media has described him as a “radical socialist”, which is not true.
Castillo simply represents an ideological line that was common on the South American left decades ago, mixing popular cultural elements with traditionally Catholic agendas and, at the same time, a great social concern. Until the last decades of the 20th century, this was the majority line of the South American left, which had much more influence from Catholic social thought than from Marxist writings. With the military dictatorships of the last century, this ideological line was suppressed and, in the process of democratization, the leftist parties were taken by a more liberal wing, concerned with “identitarian” agendas, but flexible in relation to social and economic issues. Castillo’s election is the resurgence of this old Catholic and popular left, which represents a new political force in South America.
On the other hand, there is no expectation of stability. Keiko will continue to attack her rival, even if the legality of the electoral process is proven. The Fujimori family is characterized by its constant search to stay in power, even after so many scandals, and this is not expected to end anytime soon. It is possible that Keiko will repeat accusations that Castillo is part of the Movadef, a remnant group of the Sendero Luminoso terrorist guerrillas . This accusation is common among Castillo’s opponents, due to alleged links between his party and Movadef during the 2017 Strikes, however, such allegation has never been proven and does not even seem to be consistent with Castillo’s Catholic mentality – which will not prevent Keiko to accuse the new president of links to terrorism and try to overthrow him through a court case.
With regard to the international issue, Castillo represents a threat to the interests of the Western powers, as he defends an economic and moral anti-liberalism, being totally against the main globalist agendas. But Keiko Fujimori is far from being the ideal candidate for transnational elites interested in Castillo’s defeat. The Fujimori family is involved in many scandals, mainly in relation to human rights violations during the dictatorship. This means that if Keiko tries to overthrow Castillo, she will be silently supported, without explicit international involvement.
On the other hand, if Castillo consolidates in power, the South American Catholic left will regain strength and this could have an impact on neighboring countries, which are currently undergoing a reactionary wave after years of hegemony by the liberal left. The emergence of this political alternative is important to note and will certainly be a central point in all South American electoral processes in the coming years.
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