Peruvian presidential candidate, Keiko Fujimori, gestures during a press conference at her party headquarters in the capital Lima on June 7, 2021. (Photo by AFP)
Post-election tensions seem to be haunting Peru, with the two candidates in a close race as ballots are still being counted and claims of voter fraud already surfacing.
Conservative presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori has accused her rival, Pedro Castillo, of election fraud as he took a narrow lead in the runoff presidential poll.
Fujimori, the daughter of an imprisoned former president, was leading the race for the nationís presidency, hours after the polls closed late Sunday.
But later, her rival Pedro Castillo took the lead in the official tally with 50.2 percent compared to her 49.7 percent, with 94.8 percent of the ballots counted.
Fujimori was quick to react, accusing Castilloís supporters of stealing votes.
Thereís a clear intention to "distort and delay the results which reflect the popular will" by challenging ballot tallies, Fujimori said at a press conference, where she showed social media videos to back her claims.
This is Fujimoriís third run for president in ten years.
Castilloís party, Free Peru, "rejected" the allegations in a message on Twitter, calling on election authorities to "protect the vote."
An inter-American observer mission also highlighted the absence of any irregularities and said the election had been held correctly and in compliance with international standards.
Election observers from the Organization of American States appealed for calm and said the candidatesí "conduct in these crucial hours is decisive to maintain calm."
It could be days before the final outcome of the election is clear, they said.
"No one can say for sure at this point who is going to win," said Fernando Tuesta, a political scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.
Late on Sunday, an unofficial fast count by Ipsos Peru showed Fujimori with 8.38 million votes to Castilloís 8.42 million.
Observers say uncounted overseas ballots could still boost Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori.
The ex-president, who governed between 1990 and 2000, is serving a 25-year prison term for human rights abuses and corruption.
Keiko, who herself was imprisoned as part of a graft investigation and later released, has promised to free her father should she win the race.
Castillo, a rural schoolteacher in the countryís third-poorest district, entered politics by leading a teachersí strike.
He enjoys the backing of two former Latin American presidents, one being Boliviaís Evo Morales and the other Uruguayís José Mujica. They urged him via Facebook on Thursday to "not fall into authoritarianism."
Whoever wins the race in Peru, will assume the leadership of a nation battered by recession and the worldís highest per capita coronavirus fatality rate, with more than 186,000 deaths among its 33 million population.
Also, armed insurgents of the rebel group Shining Path still remain active in parts of Peru. The group terrorized the country before being put down by former president Alberto Fujimori.
The internal conflict killed almost 70,000 people between 1980 and 2000.
Keikoís run for presidency has given rise to concerns that the remaining Shining Path members could now step up punitive attacks against her -- the daughter of their opponent.
Last month, suspected Shining Path rebels, massacred more than a dozen people in a remote coca-growing region in central Peru.
Pamphlets signed by the group were found near the bodies, vowing to rid the region and Peru of "parasites and the corrupt" and warning people not to take part in the 2021 election. They said anyone who voted for Fujimori would be considered a "traitor."