Lima, Peru – More than most elected presidents, Pedro Castillo, Peru’s apparent new leader, will have to put his transition team to work as soon as possible.
On the one hand, a third wave of coronavirus pandemic seems increasingly likely in the Andean nation, which already has, by far, the worst per capita mortality in the world for COVID-19. The highly contagious delta variant has just been detected in Arequipa, with authorities fighting to cut Peru’s second city from the rest of the country.
On the other hand, Castillo, 51, a radical left-wing outsider that no one — why the candidate himself seems to be included — expected to win, campaigned chaotically, often contradicting and delaying weeks by revealing whether he even had a political team, claiming it did not want its expert advisers to be “stigmatized” by the media.
Even many of those who voted for the village school teacher and union leader in the impoverished region of Cajamarca, in the northern Andes, wonder if he is ready for the historic challenges of getting Peru out of the two crises. economic health and economic once sworn on July 28, the 200th anniversary of Peruvian independence.
Still, no transition can be initiated until a series of unprecedented legal challenges are resolved by his opponent, Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the imprisoned despot of the 1990s Alberto Fujimori. He makes unfounded claims electoral “fraud.”.
They come despite observers of international elections, including the Organization of American States, who praise Peru’s electoral authorities for holding transparent, clean, and fair elections without significant irregularities.
Fujimori, 46, seeks to cast nearly 200,000 ballots, mostly from indigenous and mixed-race voters from poor Andean regions who voted strongly for Castillo. According to the official vote count, Castillo has one lead thin as a razor of 40,000 votes out of the 18.8 million cast, however it cannot be officially declared president-elect until Fujimori’s challenges are resolved, a process that can take weeks.
The stakes could not be higher for Fujimori, whose father once used army tanks to shut down Congress before his regime ended up collapsing amid allegations of electoral fraud and kleptocracy. He is serving a 25-year sentence for ordering extrajudicial killings. Her daughter is now facing a $ 17 million money laundering lawsuit and a potentially long prison sentence, unless she acquires presidential immunity.
His critics compare his tactics to those of former US President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his loss in the November 2020 elections, with a similar detrimental effect on Peru’s fragile democracy.
Fujimori supporters have picketed the houses of the head of the Andean nation’s electoral agency and members of the JNE, the electoral tribunal tasked with resolving its appeals.
They have also launched a tsunami of attacks on social media often racially colored against Castillo’s allies, journalists and anyone else who questions Fujimori’s tactics, accusing them of being “communists” and even “terrorists”. This prompted Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to issue a statement condemning “hate speech and discrimination” and instant to all Peruvians accept Castillo’s apparent victory.
“The Fujimorists have created this idea of anti-communism as a façade to allow people to let go of their racism,” José Ragas, a Peruvian historian at the Catholic University of Chile, told Al Jazeera. “Fujimori’s only solution is to die taking everyone away.”
When the winner is finally confirmed, as independent observers expect, Castillo will face a momentous task in straightening Peru’s listed economy and guiding its polarized society beyond the pandemic, even when many Peruvians doubt its legitimacy.
The country’s economy shrank by 11% last year and plunged millions back into poverty, including more than a million children. Although the outgoing government of interim President Francisco Sagasti has signed contracts for 60 million COVID-19 vaccines, so far less than 5 percent of the population of 32 million people has been fully vaccinated.
But it is not yet clear what direction the Castillo administration will take. Initially, he campaigned on his party’s far-left platform, Free Peru, which he repeatedly cited Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Fidel Castro, and proposed nationalizing large chunks of the national economy. “There are no longer poor people in a rich country,” was his campaign slogan.
Emblematic promises included renegotiating contracts with foreign mining companies to force them to leave 70 percent of their profits in the country and dedicate 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to health and education, a promise that no economist takes seriously.
However, there is a possibility that Castillo will moderate his policies and choose a center-left cabinet.
You may have few options if you want to avoid a fruitless and dangerous confrontation with a fragmented, populist, right-wing incoming Congress. Despite being the largest party, Free Peru will have only 37 legislators on the 130-member single-chamber body.
However, he may also be ideologically more flexible than many in Free Peru, of which he is not a member, and the presidential nomination he won at the last minute after he was banned from presenting himself to the party’s founder due to a conviction for corruption.
“Identity policy is never far from the surface in Peru. Ideological differences are much more important in Lima than in the rest of the country, “Anthony Medina Rivas Plata, a political scientist at Santa Maria de Arequipa Catholic University, told Al Jazeera.
“Castillo’s rise is not because he is on the left, but because he comes from below. He has never said whether he is a Marxist, a socialist or a communist. What he is, he is an evangelical ”.
However, their religious beliefs could also be a problem for their ability to govern. Social-conservative, he opposes LGBTQ rights and abortion, placing him at odds with the progressive left, whose support he must be able to govern.
Diana Miloslavich, who runs the Flor Tristan Women’s Center, a feminist NGO, said: “I have hope. It will have to form a broad coalition and gender issues will be part of it. Now they are not only important to many of us on the left, but also to the center. The demands represented by Castillo must include the feminist agenda ”.