It took more than 40 days of waiting, but in the end elementary school teacher and union leader Pedro Castillo was victorious: on Monday evening, after rejecting all appeals filed by Keiko Fujimori, the National Electoral Tribunal declared him the president of Peru for the next five years.
For the moment, “Mrs. K” appeared resigned, recognizing the results of the June 6 runoff “because that is what the law says,” although she said she remained convinced that “the truth will eventually come to light” and was determined to work “to restore legitimacy in the country.”
Defeated in the second round for the third time in a row, the daughter of the former dictator—whose behavior after the elections was seen with disapproval by 65% of Peruvians—had really tried everything to derail the victory of her opponent, going as far as to request that the Sagasti government should convene an international hearing to review the ballots, and even sending a delegation to Washington with the task of meeting with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro.
The goal of that mission was clear: to get support from Almagro for a coup d’état of the type that has been so effectively implemented in Bolivia. But not even the discredited secretary general of the OAS dared to go that route, as he would have had to contradict the conclusions of the electoral observer mission sent in by the organization, which had clearly rejected any notion of electoral fraud.
And all the various coup-advocating appeals came to nothing—such as the one launched by former 2016 presidential candidate Alfredo Barnechea, who openly called for an alliance between civilians and the military to prevent Castillo, whom he called a “communist” and “terrorist,” from taking up the presidency.
But while the coup d’état maneuvers have all failed, it is highly likely that the extremely fragmented and majority-conservative Congress will boycott the new president’s government, preventing him from achieving the most ambitious goals of his electoral program.
Verónika Mendoza, former presidential candidate for the left-wing party Juntos por el Perú, who became an ally of Castillo, is also convinced that this risk is real. In an interview with the newspaper La República, she pointed out that the groups in power are once again aiming to “govern without having won the elections,” launching a campaign to “bring into government those whom they believe should be there” and to prevent the organization of a referendum on a new Constitutional Charter, an essential point of the campaign of the leader of Peru Libre.
Since it won’t have the support of a parliamentary majority, the Castillo presidency, which will begin on July 28, seems to be getting off to an uphill start. Nonetheless, the winner of the elections has done everything possible to maintain calm in the country, whether by patiently waiting for the results to be announced, by denying that private property will be threatened or by trying to recruit ministers that are widely regarded as trustworthy.
It is no coincidence that the most touted names are those of Dr. Hernando Cevallos for the Ministry of Health and the economist Pedro Francke for the Ministry of Economy and Finance: the former has managed relations with China’s embassy, Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute and Pfizer to ensure the country’s access to vaccines, while the latter, known for his studies on poverty, health and social policies, is indeed an advocate of a more assertive role of the state in the economy, who has also emphasized the need for a renegotiation of the contracts with large extractive companies, but has excluded any nationalization and gave assurance that private property is fully protected.
But while many point out that Castillo, although considered a socialist from the “Marxist-Leninist-Mariateguist” tradition, actually joined Perú Libre only in September 2020—having previously been an activist in former president Alejandro Toledo’s Perú Posible party—there is a strong hope among his voters that he will not end up like the “traitor” former president Ollanta Humala, who, although elected by leftist voters, ended up governing together with the right.
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