By Marcelo Rochabrun
LIMA, June 8 (Reuters) – The count nears completion in the highly polarized elections in Peru https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/socialist-castillo-holds-slim-lead-peru-presidential-vote- count-reaches -tendu-2021-06-08.
With 96% of the votes counted, the socialist candidate Pedro Castillo is ahead of his right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori by only 79,000 votes, or 0.45 percentage point.
There are around 750,000 votes left as of Tuesday morning, according to Reuters calculations.
On Monday evening, Fujimori said his rival’s supporters attempted to steal votes, pointing to the ballots that were sent out for further consideration.
Is there any evidence of fraud?
Election experts say no.
“We are here before an absolutely normal process, Peru has one of the best electoral systems in Latin America,” said Ivan Lanegra, head of the monitoring body Transparencia.
International observers also said Peru’s voting process was clean.
So far, exactly 1,369 ballots have been sent out for further review, a number not significantly higher than in the last election cycle. The reasons vary, from lack of signatures to miscalculations to doubts as to whether a vote was correctly noted in a ballot.
How many contested votes are at stake?
About 300,000 potential ballots are at stake, Reuters calculated, assuming standard absenteeism patterns. Some votes will be overturned – voting is compulsory in Peru, so people who don’t want to pay a fine but also don’t want to vote sometimes draw doodles or leave the ballot blank.
Factoring in the likely spoiled votes brings that number down to 280,000.
Could contested votes tip the vote?
Everything can happen. Almost half of the disputed ballots are in Lima, a stronghold of support for Fujimori.
Fujimori is currently garnering slightly more votes than Castillo, spurred on by foreign voters, whose ballots take longer to be counted. However, those votes alone are unlikely to be enough to get her past Castillo.
But once an election jury reviews the contested votes, where Fujimori’s friend Lima is overrepresented, it could make a difference.
Remember that Castillo had won only 79,000 votes on Tuesday morning.
“The current momentum on the vote count favors Castillo, with the markets already assuming a narrow victory,” Siobhan Morden at Amherst Pierpont Securities said in a note, adding that things could always change. “It’s not over until it’s over.”
(Report by Marcelo Rochabrun, edited by Rosalba O’Brien)