“Fujimori’s only way forward to victory is simple: annul tens of thousands of already tallied votes,” warned Progressive International. “Powerful forces are organizing to deliver this outcome.”
By Andrea Germanos and Jon Queally
Published on Common Dreams, June 11, 2021
Progressive pro-democracy forces worldwide “sounded the alarm” Friday as backers of right-wing Peruvian presidential candidate and former dictator’s daughter Keiko Fujimori alleged election fraud—despite lack of evidence—as she challenged an apparent win by leftist Pedro Castillo, who ran on a platform to lift up the poor and redistribute the nation’s wealth.
Fujimori, the daughter ex-President Alberto Fujimori—currently in jail for his role in civil massacres and corruption—has made what critics and experts warn are baseless allegations of electoral fraud, especially as independent observers have reported no irregularities.
We are sounding the alarm🚨: Now is the time to defend democracy in Peru.
— Progressive International (@ProgIntl) June 11, 2021
As of Friday, with nearly all votes in, Castillo a former school teacher, had 50.2% to Fujimori’s 49.8%, a difference of about 63,000 votes.
“These tactics, while utterly deplorable, are not new… We call on progressive forces everywhere to defend Peruvian democracy at this critical hour.” —Progressive International
“The country’s electoral authority has yet to confirm the win, but most observers and some regional leftist leaders including from Argentina and Bolivia and have proclaimed Castillo as the victor,” Reuters reported.
In a Thursday evening tweet, Fujimori pointed to a proclamation that day from a group of former leaders from Spain and Latin American that the electoral results could not yet be announced until all vote challenges were resolved.
But David Adler, general coordinator of the Progressive International, dismissed the group as “a coalition of powerful right-wing ex-presidents” who “‘demanded’ a recount in Peru to help Keiko Fujimori steal the lead from Pedro Castillo.”
“We are all watching this struggle in real time—and we are all complicit in its outcome,” Adler wrote.
The National Jury of Election (JNE) must give final approval after resolving any electoral complaints from monitors.
According to CNN:
In the 2016 elections, [JNE president Jorge Luis Salas] said, there were only 29 requests for nullification. This time around, Fujimori asked officials to nullify the results from 802 polling stations that, according to her team’s estimates, account for about 200,000 votes.
A judge rejected that request Thursday, but Fujimori can appeal. Also on Thursday, ONPE reported it has submitted to the JNE the proceedings from 512 polling stations where results are being challenged by either or both parties.
Supporters of Fujimori may also gearing up for action should Castillo be declared the winner. Catherine Osborn, writing for Foreign Policy, reports:
Although the official vote count may have been smooth, the atmosphere around it was anything but. Some of Fujimori’s supporters called for a military intervention this week, prompting an official statement from the military that it will respect the election results. Journalists from the country’s leading television channel, América Televisión, resigned Tuesday in a scandal over their boss’s pressure on the newsroom to favor Fujimori.
Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the U.S.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, also suggested there was reason to dismiss Fujimori’s allegations of fraud.
“When one side in an election has most of the wealth in the country, and the other side is mostly poor and working people; and the candidate of wealth is down 79,000 votes and claims fraud, it’s not a very believable story,” Weisbrot tweetedThursday.
In a statement on Friday, Progressive International, which had observers on the ground in the country, said it was “gravely alarmed” by the ongoing attempts by Fujimori to “steal” the election.
“As international observers,” the group said, “we witnessed an election without any evidence of systemic fraud, as Fujimori has repeatedly alleged.” According to the statement:
The Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations (UNIORE), la Misión de Observadores Electorales del Comité Ecuatoriano de Derechos Humanos y Sindicales MOE-CEDHUS, the Democratic Socialists of America, the Party for the European Left, and regional governments, including senior Biden administration officials, have recognized the free, fair, and peaceful election Peruvians celebrated on Sunday, 6 June, without evidence of fraud. The JNE (Jurado Nacional de Elecciones) itself has also made this clear and has condemned “irresponsible political statements that accuse electoral fraud, without evidence, and fuel a climate of social polarization and weaken electoral bodies.”
We now have a clearer picture than ever of the result—and Castillo has won. With 100% percent of the vote processed, and 99.56% counted, Castillo maintains a lead of over 60,000 votes. We expect the final 0.44% of the votes to be fully counted by the end of this week. Given the insurmountable margin with so few votes left to count, figures from across Latin America, Europe, and the world have already recognized Castillo’s victory as the free, democratic decision of the Peruvian people. Fujimori’s only way forward to victory is simple: annul tens of thousands of already tallied votes.
Fujimori’s only way forward to victory is simple: annul tens of thousands of already tallied votes. Powerful forces are organizing to deliver this outcome. Fujimori has now launched a full scale campaign to mobilize top Peruvian law firms to exploit any and all possible technicalities to delete votes from the official count. To disenfranchise voters ex post facto, they are misrepresenting slight shifts in the angle of signatures, the most minor of clerical errors, and racist claims of fraud in Indigenous communities because of recurring, common last names. They argue votes in pro-Castillo rural precincts should be nullified on the bizarre pretext that overwhelming support itself indicates fraud. Meanwhile, coalitions of right-wing politicians from across the region provide political cover for this scandalous, retroactive election theft.
These tactics, while utterly deplorable, are not new. We are witnessing the same playbook of the Bolivian 2019 coup—indeed, near replicas of some of the dubious arguments deployed at the time—in which sound democratic processes are undermined and overwhelmed by false claims of fraud to install illegitimate regimes with international reactionary support.
We call on progressive forces everywhere to defend Peruvian democracy at this critical hour.
Alexander Main, director of international policy for the D.C.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and who just returned from Peru after witnessing first-hand the elections on June 6, told Common Dreams on Friday that what he observed was “a free, fair and peaceful voting process.”
“I also was able to get a sense of the extreme disparity between the two electoral campaigns, in terms of resources and in terms of media coverage,” Main said.
“On the one hand you had the extremely well-funded campaign of Fujimori, which benefited from enormous private sector support and nearly uniformly favorable coverage in all of Peru’s major media,” he said. “On the other hand you had Castillo’s campaign, carried out on a shoestring budget and subject to constant attacks and fear-mongering in the media.”
Main described a situation in which the Peruvian right-wing media consistently painted Castillo as “a terrorist sympathizer, a communist set on expropriating everyone’s property” that warned his victory “would lead to almost immediate economic collapse” in the country.
“Despite all of this,” he explained, “Castillo was able to garner enough votes to win the election. In fact, he won overwhelmingly throughout the rural areas of Peru, where his modest, campesino background and simple message ‘no more poverty in a wealthy country’ resonated strongly, particularly among the millions of Peruvians who have remained impoverished despite the country’s sustained economic growth.”
“The first step is for everyone—both inside and outside of Peru—to respect the will of the electorate.” —Congressional Progressive Caucus
In a statement Friday afternoon, leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives—including Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Reps. Chuy García (D-Ill.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)—expressed support for Peru’s democratic process and said they hoped “the results of a highly competitive election will be respected” by all parties.
“We congratulate the people of Peru for carrying out a free and fair election, and we hope that it will help resolve some of the political instability, polarization, and the loss of public confidence in democratic institutions,” the U.S. lawmakers said in a joint statement. “Given the major social, economic and political challenges the country confronts, and the importance of strong U.S.-Peruvian relations, we express our support for a return to well-functioning democratic institutions in Peru.”
In order to achieve a positive outcome, they said, “the first step is for everyone—both inside and outside of Peru—to respect the will of the electorate.”
With official results possibly be weeks away, CEPR’s Main said that while it remains unlikely Fujimori and her allies will be successful in their efforts, “it is important for the world to remain vigilant given the recent precedent in Bolivia, where similarly unfounded fraud claims—backed by right-wing elites, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the U.S. government—led to the overthrow of democracy.”
Headline photo: A Supporter of presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori holds a sign that reads in Spanish ‘Communist Fraud’ to protest the vote count in front of the offices of the Jurado Nacional de Elecciones on June 10, 2021 in Lima, Peru. After a very tight presidential runoff candidate Pedro Castillo of Peru Libre slightly surpasses candidate Keiko Fujimori of Fuerza Popular who is disputing thousands of votes. (Photo: Raul Sifuentes/Getty Images)
Andrea Germanos and Jon Queally are both staff writers for Common Dreams