LIMA, Peru—Nine days after a divisive presidential election, Latin America’s once-admired economic star, Peru, is grappling with political upheaval as the trailing candidate insists the vote was stolen and her establishment supporters are demanding a new election.
Right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori, who received 49.9% of the votes against 50.1% for her far-left rival Pedro Castillo with all the ballots counted, is calling for an audit after alleging “grave irregularities.” Election officials, however, have rejected her fraud claims, and international election observers say the vote was transparent and clean.
An official result won’t be announced until the election board chooses to accept or decline Ms. Fujimori’s appeals, which seek to annul votes from regions dominated by Mr. Castillo. But while Peru waits for a verdict, the country faces a period of political turmoil as tensions grow between Mr. Castillo—a political outsider—and his adversaries in the nation’s political and business establishment.
The turmoil highlights a deepening polarization in Peru in the wake of an 11% economic contraction last year and the world’s highest per-capita death toll from Covid-19. The partisan standoff threatens government efforts to tackle the health and economic crisis and could lead to violent unrest, political analysts say.
In a public letter on Monday, several retired military commanders, including an ex-defense minister and a 99-year-old former military dictator, said there are reasonable doubts about vote tampering and warned of “grave instability.” A retired admiral and right-wing politician elected to Congress, Jorge Montoya, called for the annulment of the election and a new vote. A prominent conservative talk show host said Ms. Fujimori’s supporters should take over the presidential palace, echoing former U.S. President Donald Trump’s calls in January for supporters to march to the Capitol to prevent the lawmakers from certifying the election of President Biden.
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