Peru heads to the polls to elect president in polarised race | Elections News

Peruvians will make a choice between right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori and left-wing Pedro Castillo.

Voting has started in Peru’s presidential election as the country faces a polarising choice between right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori and rural support left-wing Pedro Castillo.

Polls in the runoff election opened at 7am (12:00 GMT) in most of the country’s 11,700 voting centres, with official results starting to arrive from 11:30pm (04:30 GMT Monday).

The voting is taking place days after Peru almost tripled its coronavirus death toll following a government review, it now has the world’s worst coronavirus death rate per capita.

Polls show the race in a statistical dead heat but with Fujimori, who had earlier trailed Castillo, pulling slightly ahead.

Fujimori, 46, the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, is promising to maintain economic stability and pro-free market policies in the world’s second-largest copper producer, as well as to pardon her father, who was sentenced for human rights violations.

Fujimori herself spent several months in custody on corruption allegations she denies. If she wins, the criminal case against her will be halted while she leads the country.

Translation: “Today, that we have reached here with a lot of effort, I have to pass the post to you. I can’t reach the goal alone. I need you to do it. I only ask that you give me a chance. With your support, we are going to turn this game around. #Now it’s your turn.”

Castillo, 51, an elementary school teacher and union leader, has galvanised support from Peru’s rural poor – and scared investors – with pledges to nationalise the mining sector, a stance he later sought to take back.

He has vowed to alter multinational companies’ tax regimes and wants to rewrite the country’s constitution.

He is from a remote village near the town of Tacabamba, in Peru’s northern Andes, which on Saturday night cheered him as he made his way back home to vote.

Castillo gave brief remarks, even though political campaigning is banned in the last days before an election in Peru.

Pollsters say undecided voters and Peruvians living abroad could tip the balance in the crunch poll.

Approximately one million overseas Peruvians are part of the 25-million electoral roll.

Only 0.8 percent voted in the first round of the election in April when COVID-19 lockdowns were commonplace.

The head of Peru’s National Office of Electoral Processes, Piero Corvetto, said that with vaccination programs now further advanced in areas where Peruvian expatriates predominate – such as the United States, Spain, Argentina and Chile – more people were likely to turn out.

He said he expects overseas Peruvians to account for 1.5 percent of the vote.

A neck-and-neck result could lead to days of uncertainty and tension if it takes time to settle on a winner.

The new president will take office on July 28, replacing centrist interim leader Francisco Sagasti.

A poll worker sets up a voting booth ahead of the runoff elections between Castillo and Fujimori [Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters]

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