Peru on edge as vote counting begins in tight presidential runoff

Peru’s presidential election was on a knife edge on Sunday night with early unofficial counts showing the socialist and conservative candidates separated by a razor-thin margin.

A quick count of votes with a 1 percent error margin put leftist presidential candidate Pedro Castillo, an elementary school teacher and novice politician, ahead by 0.4 of a percentage point.

A previous exit poll by Ipsos, with a higher 3 percent error margin put Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of jailed ex-President Alberto Fujimori, up by 0.6 of a percentage point.

“It’s still a statistical draw,” said Ipsos Peru director Alfredo Torres after the unofficial count was announced. “There could be changes.”

The new results triggered immediate celebrations of “we won!” in Tacabamba, the Andean town closest to the impoverished village where Castillo was born and raised, which is also where he is waiting for the results.

The tight race could lead to days of uncertainty as official counts trickle in, and may trigger social unrest if disillusioned supporters of either candidate question the results.

Castillo had earlier called his supporters out onto the streets after the exit poll gave a slender lead to his rival Fujimori.

“I ask our people to defend every vote,” Castillo wrote on Twitter. “I call on Peruvian people from all corners of the country to go to the streets in peace to be vigilant in the defense of democracy.”