Left winger Pedro Castillo edged closer to becoming Peru’s president having declared himself the winner on Wednesday.
On Thursday morning Castillo had received 50.22 percent of the vote and right wing Keiko Fujimori had taken 49.77 percent.
Castillo is a former school teacher from Cajamarca region. He is associated with the Free Peru party, which describes itself as Marxist-Leninist.
In his election campaign, Castillo promised more regulation on mining companies, more agricultural reforms and the rewriting of the constitution.
However mild, such reforms have worried the ruling class. Already there are reports of the rich moving their money out of the country in fear of Castillo coming to power.
The currency, the sol, plus Peruvian stocks and bonds have all fallen in recent weeks.
The real fear is that Castillo as president could set off much more radical demands from workers and the poor.
So the elites are trying to block Carillo. As the official count began to show him leading, Fujimori started to complain of fraud at the polls.
Without a shred of real evidence of malpractice, she called for 200,000 votes to be declared void and a further 300,000 to be scrutinised.
At a press conference, she said, “There are 500,000 votes at play here, still half a million votes nationally, and we think it’s fundamental that they should be analysed before the final count.”
Miguel Torres, Fujimori’s lawyer, said her Popular Force party “is not going to throw in the towel”. Fujimore is the daughter of the previous authoritarian president Alberto Fujimori.
Castillo’s supporters have taken to the streets to proclaim his victory and as a sign that they will not allow their votes to be ignored.
On a mobilisation of Castillo’s supporters, the women’s leader of the National Federation of Municipal Workers of Peru told news outlet teleSUR, “We as women have suffered so much abuse in this country.
“But you have seen through the rallies, the people are the ones in charge.”
“And the people have decided on a teacher to come and lead our country. We want real change. We aren’t fearful, we have had enough of fear.”
“We want a country with justice, with rights for all Peruvians.”
Castillo has thanked his supporters but also tried to demobilise them. He said only, “Let us remain firm and joyful in the struggle that belongs to all Peruvians.”
If Castillo comes to office he must be defended against the inevitable attacks the right will wage on him.
But it is vital to continue to build movements on the streets and in the workplaces. They can not only shield Castillo but also push him to go further than his promises and lay the basis for change from below.