By Satyaki Chakraborty
Peru’s electoral agony is finally over. The Marxist Pedro Castillo will take over as the new president of this Latin American nation on July 28 after the national electoral authorities dismissed all the legal challenges lodged by his right wing rival Ms. Keiko Fujimori on Sunday.
The National Jury of Elections (JNE)’s decision brings an end to weeks of uncertainty following Mr Castillo’s narrow victory on June 6 this year , when he won the second round of voting by just over 44,000 votes. Fujimori refused to accept the defeat and lodged large number of complaints to the election authority and she was given full support by the U.S. business interests. Peru’s military leaders also gave some hint that they would not like a Left president.
But thousands of supporters of the leftwing president elect came into streets and demanded immediate announcement of the official results by the National Jury of Elections. The pro-Castillo demonstrations were held in every part of the country and it was a manifestation of the mobilization of the rural farmers and the urban poor in favour of changes that Castillo has promised.
Mr Castillo will now press ahead with reforms, including a new constitution, increased spending on public services and boosting state intervention in the economy.
“We will advance safely in the democratic channel to put an end to the historical discrimination suffered by our Andean, Amazonian, Afro-descendant peoples and our populations vulnerable to sexist, classist and racist violence,” he said.
In a speech to supporters from a balcony at his party headquarters in downtown Lima, Castillo addressed Fujimori directly, telling her that there should be no more “obstacles” or “hindrances” barring Peru from progressing. The leftwing leader was happy that Fujimori accepted finally the decision announced by the electoral authority.
Stressing that all Peruvians would be welcome to help his government move the country forward, he added: “Welcome everyone. Bring your experience, but with your loyalty and transparency. We’re not going to rob a single cent from the Peruvian people.”
Although his Marxist-Leninist Free Peru party is the largest in Peru’s incoming Congress, with 37 seats in the 130-member single-chamber body, Castillo will face a conservative majority led by the 24 members of Fujimori’s Popular Force, the second-largest party. Castillo will have to fight hard to get his pro-people programmes get implemented in view of the right wing domination in the congress. There are indications that the right wing law makers will challenge many proposed programmes in the courts terming them against the spirit of the constitution.
The election has also raised questions about the future of Peru’s hard-fought battle against entrenched corruption. Of the country’s nine presidents since 1990, one, Alberto Fujimori — Keiko’s father — is in jail, another is fighting extradition from California, a third shot himself to avoid arrest, and four others are under criminal investigation. Castillo is a clean person but he has to be careful about his colleagues in his party since there is a tradition in Peru that after coming to power, the ministers resort to corrupt practices and this is a major issue in the political arena of Peru.
Samuel Rotta, head of the Peruvian branch of the anti-corruption group Transparency International, warned that Castillo appears unaware of basic aspects of Peru’s existing anti-corruption efforts. “We’ll have a clearer idea of where he is going to go on this when he names his policy team,” Rotta said. “Right now, we just don’t know which faction of Free Peru will win out.”
One potentially positive sign, Rotta said, was Castillo’s campaign promise to establish an international anti-corruption investigatory committee in Peru similar to committees that have helped indict powerful politicians in Guatemala and Honduras.
“He just threw it out there in one of his speeches,” Rotta said. “But I think it is something that he can be held to. It would be a question of putting meat on the bones of the proposal, and getting a team of international prosecutors to support — and help protect — their Peruvian counterparts.”
Castillo also will have to deal with the coronavirus. Peru has the world’s highest covid-19 death rate, and public health experts are warning of an imminent third wave. So far, Peru has administered 10 million vaccine doses, with just 12 percent of the country’s 32 million people fully vaccinated.
Castillo has tough tasks ahead but he is known as a man of grit and determination’ The political observers in Latin America are of the view that he has to make special efforts in ensuring unity of the anti right forces to check the right from emerging powerful again. His final victory has given a big boost to the left in other countries of the region, especially Chile where presidential elections will be held in October this year and the Chilean communist Party candidate is way ahead in the opinion poll as the potential president. Presidential elections are due in Nicaragua in November and in Brazil in 2022. The entire Latin American people will monitor the performance of Castillo as president after he takes over on July 28. (IPA Service)