Peru fast count predicts run-off between leftist Castillo and conservative Fujimori

Mr Pedro Castillo has promised to redraft Peru's 27-year-old Constitution, one of the key demands of young protesters.
Mr Pedro Castillo has promised to redraft Peru's 27-year-old Constitution, one of the key demands of young protesters.PHOTO: REUTERS

LIMA (REUTERS) - Far-left candidate Pedro Castillo will face conservative Keiko Fujimori in a June run-off of Peru presidential election, according to a fast count by pollster Ipsos of more than two thirds of votes cast in Sunday’s (April 11) election.

Mr Castillo, a 51-year-old union leader and primary school teacher, secured 18.6 per cent of the votes, while 14.5 per cent went to Ms Fujimori, the daughter of imprisoned former president Alberto Fujimori, the tally of 69.1 per cent of the vote showed. 

The outcome would do little to calm market jitters over the future leadership of the world’s second largest copper producer, however. 

Mr Castillo has pledged to redraft the Constitution of the Andean nation with a view to weakening the business elite and giving the state a more dominant role in sectors such as mining, oil, hydropower, gas and communications. 

Free marketeer Ms Fujimori is a deeply divisive figure whose father was jailed for human rights abuses. She herself has spent time on remand over claims that she received US$1.2 million (S$1.61 million) from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which she denies. 

Mr Hernando de Soto, the liberal economist whom an exit poll suggested was tied in second place with Ms Fujimori, dropped to fourth position in the fast count, with 10.8 per cent of the vote. 

An ultra-right candidate, Mr Rafael Lopez Aliaga, rose to third place with 11.9 per cent of the vote, according to the Ipsos tally. 

Ipsos said it had counted 69.1 per cent of the votes nationwide, with a one-point margin of error in its findings. 

Mr Castillo’s lead was confirmed by the first official results released, giving him 15.8 per cent of voteshare, but ranking Ms Fujimori behind Mr de Soto and Mr Lopez Aliaga, with 12.19 per cent, 14.48 per cent and 13.13 per cent respectively, after 11 per cent of votes have been counted. 

Celebrations, which started after Mr Castillo’s lead was first suggested in an exit poll, ran into the night in his home city of Cajamarca, in Peru’s northern highlands. 
"I am grateful to the Peruvian people for this result," Mr Castillo, who had worn a trademark cowboy hat when he arrived on horseback to vote, told supporters. "I ask for calm until the final results."

The teacher put on a late surge in the polls, and according to the exit poll, won most votes in Peru’s five poorest regions. 

In addition to a pledge to tear up the 27-year-old cCnstitution, a key demand of the young protesters who launched anti-government demonstrations last year, he has said he will keep his teacher’s salary and cut those of lawmakers. 

Peruvians also voted for representative to the 130-seat congress.  Exit poll results for that contest from Ipsos Peru suggested the body would stay fragmented, with 11 parties meeting the 5 per cent threshold for representation but no party holding a clear majority, a potential hurdle for policymaking. 

The Popular Action party of socially conservative presidential candidate Yonhy Lescano and Mr Castillo’s Free Peru party each obtained 10.7 per cent of the votes, the Ipsos poll suggested. 

They were followed by the Popular Force party of Ms Fujimori with 9.5 per cent, the Popular Renovation party of Mr Lopez Aliaga with 8.8 per cent, and the Country Forward party of Mr de Soto with 8.4 per cent. 

Additionally, the Alliance for Progress party of businessman Cesar Acuna got 7.9 per cent and Together for Peru party 7.7 per cent, according to the exit poll result. 

Peru is battling a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, reporting a grim new daily record of 384 deaths on Saturday.