© Reuters. The presidential candidate of Peru, Pedro Castillo (C), walks upon his arrival in Tacabamba, Peru, on June 5, 2021. Photo taken on June 5, 2021. REUTERS / Alessandro Cinque
By Marco Aquino and Marcelo Rochabrun
LIMA / TACABAMBA, Peru (Reuters) – Peruvians began voting for a president on Sunday in an election that has divided them bitterly by class and geography, with urban and higher-income citizens preferring Keiko Fujimori to the right while the rural poor support the left. political novice Pedro Castillo.
The polls in the second round of the elections began to open at 7 am (1200 GMT), and early in some centers of the capital, Lima, long lines of people sheltered against the cold of the southern hemisphere formed in late autumn.
Citizens have been invited to vote according to their numbers on their identity cards in an attempt to prevent large crowds from gathering.
Peru nearly tripled its death toll from coronavirus last week following a government review, meaning it now has the world’s worst per capita death rate from the pandemic.
Opinion polls show that the presidential race is in a statistical tie, but with Fujimori, who had followed Castillo before, advancing slightly.
Fujimori, 46, daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori, promises to maintain economic stability and pro-free market policies in the world’s second largest producer.
Castillo, 51, an elementary school teacher and union leader, has enlisted the support of Peru’s rural poor, and concerned investors, with promises that include modifying the tax regimes of multinational companies and rewriting the constitution.
He held prayers and an electoral breakfast at his adobe house in the remote village of Chugur, in the northern Andes, before heading to the nearby city of Tacabamba to vote.
He previously warned against election fraud, saying he would “be the first to summon the people” if he saw evidence of foul play. On Sunday, however, he said he would respect the result.
“I call on Peruvians to be calm, to show the world that we can do this,” he said.
On the way to an electoral breakfast in Lima, Fujimori told reporters: “Keiko means hope. Let’s all go out to vote.”
Many Peruvians deeply distrust politicians after two decades in which five former presidents have been investigated or prosecuted for corruption.
Ruth Rojas, who said she lives in the deepest poverty with a disabled daughter, said she did not believe the votes of either candidate.
“They promise everything until they reach the government but then they forget about the poor, they only think about themselves and their own people,” said Rojas.
Pollsters say undecided voters and Peruvians living abroad could tip the balance.
Overseas Peruvians make up almost 4% of the 25 million on the electoral roll. Only 0.8% voted in the first round of the April elections, when COVID-19 lockdowns were common.
However, the head of Peru’s National Office of Electoral Processes, Piero Corvetto, said that with the vaccination programs now more advanced in areas where Peruvian expatriates predominate – the United States, Spain, Argentina and Chile – turnout would likely come closer. 1.5%.