Finally, a winner in Peru

It’s taken four days, but the votes from last Sunday’s presidential election in Peru have now all been processed. (See earlier report here.) And we have a winner: liberal economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has defeated Keiko Fujimori by the skin of his teeth, 50.12% to 49.88%. That’s a margin of less than 42,000 votes in more than 17 million. Turnout was 80.1%.

Votes from 137 polling stations (0.18% of the total) have not yet been counted, having been referred to the electoral court due to technical disputes of one sort or another, but there are not enough of them to change the result. (The BBC earlier this morning said they involved about 50,000 ballots, but a number have been counted since then; the majority of those outstanding are from external polling stations, particularly in Europe and the United States.)

Elections don’t get much closer than that, although it does happen: the 2006 cliffhanger in Italy was decided by only about 25,000 votes in 38 million.

Kuczynski led throughout the count, but there was a point mid-week, with about 94% counted, when his lead dropped sharply enough to give hope to Fujimori’s supporters. Fujimori has yet to concede defeat.

The similarity with Austria two weeks earlier, with mainstream candidates rallying to defeat a first round leader from the far right by the tiniest of margins, is uncanny. In one sense Kuczynski had an easier task: as a centrist, he was able to rally votes from the left, whereas Austria’s Alexander Van der Bellen, coming from the left, failed to win many votes from the centre-right. But Kuczynski had a bigger deficit to make up in the first place, having trailed by almost 19% on the first round (compared to about 14% in Van der Bellen’s case).

And in other Latin American news, Venezuela’s national electoral council has, with obvious reluctance, validated the signatures submitted by the opposition to start the process of calling a referendum to oust president Nicol├ís Maduro. But there’s a long way to go to demonstrate that democracy still functions in Venezuela.

UPDATE 4am Sunday 12 June (Peru time)

With all the disputed polling places now accounted for, the result has barely changed. Kuczynski gained very slightly and is the winner on 50.12%, not quite 42,600 votes ahead of Fujimori.


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