“Stop the Steal” campaign by losing candidate in Peru must end

Peru’s electoral authorities, international and national election observers, and other experts agree that there is no foundation for Keiko Fujimori’s allegations of fraud, and that her challenges to the vote count cannot change the result.

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Peru is currently facing a serious problem following its June 6 presidential election that is similar to what we had in the US in November. The losing candidate, Keiko Fujimori, is refusing to accept the results. Like Trump, she claims without evidence that it was stolen.


Keiko Fujimori is the daughter of former dictator Alberto Fujimori; she was part of his regime and promises to liberate him from prison if she is elected. He was convicted for his role in vicious human rights violations, including political murders and kidnappings, as well as for corruption. Keiko Fujimori is currently facing corruption charges including organized crime, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.


Peru’s electoral authorities, international and national election observers, and other experts agree that there is no foundation for Keiko Fujimori’s allegations of fraud, and that her challenges to the vote count cannot change the result. But — like Trump and his supporters in the January 6 insurrection — she is not giving up. And she has the vast majority of Peru’s media, including TV news channels, backing her. Hundreds of retired military officers have already called for a coup d’etat if her opponent Pedro Castillo, a leftist rural school teacher, is confirmed as president.


Her latest move, taking place now, is to try to convince Peru’s current President, Francisco Sagasti, to invite the Organization of American States (OAS) to conduct an “audit” of the election. This is a dangerous move, as those who have followed the recent history of the OAS, especially under current Secretary General Luis Almagro, are aware. 


In October 2019, the OAS played a pivotal role in overturning the results of a democratic presidential election in Bolivia that had been won by the incumbent President Evo Morales, the country’s first Indigenous president in the country with the largest percentage of Indigenous people in the Americas. The OAS, which had sent observers to the election, issued a statement the next day expressing “deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results after the closing of the polls.” 


But there was no such thing, and as The New York Times would later report, the “flawed” OAS statement “heightened doubts about the fairness of the vote and fueled a chain of events that changed the South American nation’s history.” This refers to the Trump-backed military coup that replaced the Morales government with one that committed two massacres of Indigenous people within a week of taking power.


It was easy to show that the OAS allegations were false, and this was done immediately. There was no “drastic or hard-to-explain change in the trend” of this preliminary vote count, as a top OAS election official would admit in private just a day later. All that happened was that votes reported later came from areas that were more favorable to the president and his party. This phenomenon — political differences between areas that report at different times, e.g., rural versus urban, or poorer versus higher-income — are familiar to anyone who has seen election returns on TV.


The fact that the OAS — backed by the Trump administration — produced several statements and reports on Bolivia’s election without ever addressing this obvious explanation indicates that their repeated false statements were not technical mistakes but deliberate lies. Members of the US Congress, which provides the majority of OAS funding, have repeatedly raised these exact questions with OAS officials — including Almagro — for more than a year and a half. They have received no substantive answers, and have demanded an investigation. Most likely, they will eventually get one.


In the meantime, Peru cannot afford an OAS “audit” like the one that they did for Bolivia in 2019 — which was also thoroughly debunked


Peru’s electoral authorities have determined that Pedro Castillo received 44,000 more votes than Keiko Fujimori. However they have not yet declared him to be president-elect, pending resolution of Keiko Fujimori’s challenges to election results.


This is a serious problem, because the longer they wait, the more time Fujimori has — with the help of most of the media — to sow doubts about the legitimacy of the election and pursue various strategies, possibly including a military coup, to overturn it. One strategy of the Right is to delay the official proclamation of the president-elect past July 28, when the new president is supposed to take office. In that case the president of the Congress could try to take office — increasing the probability of more chaos and destabilization. 


The electoral authorities are evaluating Fujimori’s appeals, but clearly this cannot go on indefinitely. 


As for the OAS, its Electoral Observation Mission in Peru for this election has so far agreed with the Peruvian electoral authorities that the election was clean. Let’s keep it that way.


- Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is also the author of “Failed: What the ‘Experts’ Got Wrong About the Global Economy” (Oxford University Press).


Article published by the Dow Jones publication MarketWatch on June 28, 2021.


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