Pedro Castillo weaves a network of support to govern Peru in an adverse scenario

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The highest instance of the Peruvian electoral court denied 270 requests from Fujimori to annul the votes of Pedro Castillo, the candidate who won at the polls by more than 44,000 votes in the June 6 ballot. As of Monday of this week, only administrative procedures remained for the proclamation of the rural teacher as president-elect, but Keiko Fujimori’s lawyers announced Tuesday night that they will again present appeals. Meanwhile, Castillo weaves alliances that allow him a basis to govern, since his competitor will not recognize the results and describes him as “illegitimate president.”

The professor and left-wing union leader has obtained the support of the main labor unions and civil organizations that have created the National Front for Democracy and Governance, to defend themselves against conservative politicians and retired military personnel who called for the intervention of the armed forces to prevent “communism.”

On June 15, the official vote counted Castillo as the winner with a difference of 44,058 votes over the candidate on the right, but Fujimori presented hundreds of requests to annul polling stations where the rural teacher won en masse. The National Elections Jury spent a month processing the cases: on Monday, the four magistrates of that entity completed the review and publication of resolutions. All the requests were rejected – as unfounded – in the first and second instance. The magistrates found that there was no forgery of signatures, no impersonations of board members, or collusion to fill out minutes as alleged by Fujimori and allies.

During that period, Castillo has been recognized as president-elect by the regional governors in an assembly held in Cusco, and by 30 mayors, as well as by the deans of the Medical College of Peru and the College of Medical Technologists, key in the fight against covid-19 pandemic.

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Castillo needs support in the Legislature, as he ran for president as a guest of the Peru Libre party – a formation led by Marxist-Leninist neurologist Vladimir Cerrón – which has obtained 37 seats, the first minority in a 130-member parliament. After the endorsement in the second-round campaign of the former presidential candidate Verónika Mendoza, he will have five votes from the Juntos por el Perú bench, and three from the Purple Party, of the former presidential candidate Julio Guzmán, who has also recognized the professor rural as the winner.

Three of the center-right parties with representation in Congress, Acción Popular and Alianza para el Progreso -of former candidate César Acuña-, have been fragmented since the 2016 elections and do not vote uniformly. In this context, some support Fujimori’s version of “fraud”, and others, such as the regional governor of Cajamarca and president of Popular Action, Mesías Guevara, are allies of Castillo.

In addition, the parliamentary spokespersons of Peru Libre are working on the formation of a multiparty board of directors in Congress, with the Acuña party and with Somos Perú, which this Wednesday agreed to ally with that end. Additionally, the rural professor has met at least a couple of times with former presidential candidate George Forsyth, whose father – retired diplomat Harold Forsyth – has a network of contacts in Lima’s elite.

The version of Fujimori and his defenders about “irregularities” in the election is fed daily with text messages among his followers and the media, but it is also expressed on the street through a Fujimori shock group called La Resistencia.

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At the end of Wednesday afternoon, the mob tried to remove the protection fences of the Government Palace, confronted the police, attacked journalists and stoned and beat up official vehicles of two ministers of the current president, Francisco Sagasti. The mob echoed the statements of Fujimori – and allies – that the outgoing president has sided with Castillo by not requesting an audit of the elections.

Castillo will need more support to rule. The new ultra-right wing of Popular Renovation, with 13 members, is an ally of the 24 Fujimori parliamentarians of Fuerza Popular. The leader of Popular Renovation, Rafael López Aliaga, has said that his bench will raise an investigative commission on “fraud” in the elections, and described the future government of Castillo as “legal, but illegitimate.” The same tone was used by the Fujimori leader on Saturday in a sit-in, challenging the president-elect. “They are going to commit table fraud and we are not going to accept it: we will go to the (Government) Palace with the popular vote. Let Mr. Castillo listen to me well, this party is just beginning, ”cried the daughter of the autocrat Alberto Fujimori.

The congresswoman elected by Cusco from Together for Peru, Ruth Luque, said that the regions – in opposition to the capital – support Castillo. “Although there is no single face, there are regional actors such as universities, professional colleges, institutions and governors who are waiting for the level of representation that the new government is going to give them,” he commented.

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Lawyer Luque maintains that in the face of the delegitimization undertaken by Fujimorism “the Front for Democracy and Governance has been set up to guarantee a better defense of the future Government.” She highlights that politicians and technicians without partisan militancy – such as former Minister of Economy Alonso Segura – are approaching Castillo in the moment prior to the transfer of management.

In any case, political analyst Mauricio Zavaleta sees the immediate future of the president-elect complicated because he is not a member of any elite and the economic power and the media are against him. “The political actors themselves are very weak: one candidate (Fujimori) entered the second round with 13% of the votes, and they are all political Lilliputians. Not even adding Verónika Mendoza can they guarantee Castillo some stability in parliament, ”says the political scientist.

”He needs voices like (Alonso) Segura’s to advise prudence in an important pressure group like the business community. So, he has a giant coordination problem: many actors with contradictory expectations that, in turn, relatively influence his stability as president, ”adds Zavaleta.

To aggravate the scenario, the Popular Force lawyer Julio Castiglioni announced that he will appeal 15 minutes to the electoral court in this phase because the law allows it. Although the number of votes on which you want to claim does not change the final result, it will cause more delay in the expected transfer of information between the incoming and outgoing governments.

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