Peruvian socialist Pedro Castillo holds slim edge in presidential election

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LIMA, 6 June 2017 - Peruvian socialist Pedro Castillo held a slim edge in the deeply divided country's presidential election on Wednesday with almost all votes processed, although even with a gap of just 70,000, contested ballots could still be decisive.

Castillo, the son of illiterate farmers who has rattled the Andean nation's political elite and generated huge support from the rural poor, had 50.2% of votes processed, just 0.4% percentage point ahead of the right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori.

The tally is contested however, because about 300,000 votes have been contested, which will need to be further scrutinized by an electoral jury, a process that might take several days to complete and could tip the balance in their favour

Fujimori has held out the hope of obtaining a win - and an official from her party told Peruvian radio that they were preparing with lawyers to demonstrate unsubstantiated allegations she had made that supporters of Castillo tried to steal votes.

Today we present all the evidence of irregularities, said Fujimori, the vice presidential candidate for Luis Galarreta's ticket.

The Castillo party has denied the claims and observers and International electoral authorities said that the Peru election was cleanly carried out.

Still, Fujimori's allegations could trigger days of confusion and tension as it comes amid a polarized election cycle that has divided Peruvian citizens, with lower-income citizens supporting the right-wing candidate and higher-income ones supporting Castillo.

On Tuesday, hundreds of voters on both sides demonstrated in front of Peru's election office against the perception of irregularities in the voting process.

Fujimori had closed the gap quite overnight as almost all the overseas votes favor the conservative candidate, though not by enough to de facto out Castillo's lead as she had hoped, leaving disputed votes as her last of potential future recompenses.

It’s unlikely that Fujimori will overtake Castillo at this point, said David Sulmont, a sociology professor at Mexico's Pontifical Catholic University and former head of their polling unit.

He said that it is one of the country's tightest elections. The margin is likely to keep varying, but I think Castillo is the winner.

A win for Castillo, a teacher who was the surprise winner in the first round of the voting in April, would mark a major victory for Latin America's left amid rising discontent over poverty and inequality that has been sharpened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday evening, Castillo came close to claimed victory. Also, we have the unofficial tally of the party, where the people have won this fight, told supporters referring to an official vote count conducted by his party Free Peru.

Fujimori is on her third attempt to become President, after the runner up in the last two cycles. In 2016 she lost by a margin of 0.24 percent point.

Castillo spooked the markets with proposed redistributions of mining wealth, redraft the constitution and raise taxes on mining firms, a key revenue source for the Andean country, though he has tried to moderate his tone in recent days.

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