Sao Paulo – the new President of Peru, leftist teacher Pedro Castillo, will begin his term next Wednesday, July 28, already in a political crisis fueled by the insistence of second-ranked right-winger Keiko Fujimori in the election not to accept the result of counting votes . For experts, the country’s situation is a warning to the continent as it could serve as an inspiration to other leaders to question clean electoral processes if they lose.
Castillo won by a margin of 44,000 votes in the second round held on 6 June, a result already evident in the week following the election. Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori (1990–2000), however, alleged fraud in the results. Without providing evidence, he filed more than 270 requests to annul his opponent’s votes in Peru’s electoral court.
For Moises Marx, a scientist at the School of Sociology and Politics in So Paulo (Fespsp), Keiko follows a script similar to that of former US President Donald Trump, creating a sort of regional political risk.
Two alarming patterns are taking shape in Latin America. The first is from highly polarized societies. The second is that a candidate who loses an election uses the trick of saying that there was fraud. The Peru case is not the first in which this has happened, but it marks the beginning of a potentially dangerous pattern in Latin America – he emphasized.
According to Marx, this behavior undermines trust in institutions and jeopardizes democracy.
Democracy should be a game accepted by all participants in elections. A defeated candidate playing the part of the population against the political system, the courts and institutions, as Trump and Keiko did and Bolsonaro threatened to do so, is a serious problem and becomes a pattern – he says. Huh.
Analysts also say that the behavior is not limited to right-wing candidates, citing as an example the current Mexican president, leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who in the past has questioned the results of presidential elections when he was defeated.
In Ecuador, this year, third place in the presidential race, left-wing indigenous leader Yaku Pérez accused him of fraud without providing evidence after losing his seat in the second round to banker Guillermo Lasso, who was ultimately elected.
Oliver Stuenkel, a professor at the FGV, says Keiko’s strategy of questioning election results even in the Organization of American States (OAS) was relatively successful. This did not cancel the election, but it prompted a large section of the Peruvian population to question Castillo’s legitimacy.
– What happens in Peru is a reflection of the fact that in Latin America, today there is no normative context that pressures political leaders to respect the rules of the game. Keiko doesn’t need to fear retaliation in the field, she works for the cause of impunity. It can serve as an inspiration to leaders of other countries – he says.
Internationally, the trend is for successful erosion of democratic governance to encourage other countries to follow suit, Stuenkel says.
We can see it in recent cases in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Venezuela. We no longer have a multilateral body that is recognized as legitimate by most countries [que possa mediar e atenuar as crises]. The OAS lost relevance, and UNASUR (the Association of South American Nations) practically no longer exists – they say.
Stuenkel points out that the biggest challenge for Castillo in Peru will be completing his term, which is already starting to get fragile. The candidate – who adopted a left speech in the campaign, praised the Bolivarian model of Bolivia and Venezuela and proposed a new constitution for the country – has been demanding talks with the center and centre-left parties in recent weeks.
The new president’s party, Free Peru, has the largest bench in Congress but does not have a majority, controlling 37 of the 130 seats. Adding allies, the governing base grows to 45 MPs.
Keiko – who is already in preventive custody in a case in which she is being investigated for allegedly receiving illegal donations from Brazil’s Odebrecht – could face more legal problems. The candidate had promised during the campaign that she would give up, but she knows that losing her third consecutive presidential election means being more exposed in the process before her in court.
risk of breakage
For UNESCO professor historian Alberto Eggio, the possibility of a breakdown of the democratic system in Peru cannot be ruled out.
– During the campaign, there was a far-right campaign in which the army was called to act against Castillo’s eventual victory. It has to happen on the spot and it is dangerous. Castillo enters a state of fragility and must moderate left-wing radical discourse to try to forge coalitions in a political landscape of major fragmentation – he insists.
Agio says that despite issuing a note praising the electoral process in Peru, US diplomacy under Joe Biden has yet to give clear indications of what his position will be in Latin America.
– When military rule on the continent ended, the electoral solution was indisputable, the elections were not criticized in any way. Today, there is a global backlash, mainly from the extreme right, in the sense of outlawing representative democracy, including in Latin America – he emphasized.