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Explainer: Could Peru's contested votes swing the election?

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By Reuters
Explainer: Could Peru's contested votes swing the election?
Explainer: Could Peru's contested votes swing the election?   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By Marcelo Rochabrun

LIMA – Counting is nearly over in Peru’s highly polarized election. (

With 96% of votes counted, socialist candidate Pedro Castillo is ahead of rightwing rival Keiko Fujimori by just 79,000 votes, or 0.45 percentage point.

There are about 750,000 votes that remain to be counted as of Tuesday morning, according to Reuters calculations.

On Monday evening, Fujimori said supporters of her rival had tried to steal votes, pointing to ballots that have been sent for further review.

Is there any evidence of fraud?

Election experts say no.

“We are here before an absolutely normal process, Peru has one of the best electoral systems in Latin America,” said Ivan Lanegra, head of watchdog Transparencia.

International observers have also said Peru’s voting process was clean.

Exactly 1,369 ballot tables so far have been sent for further review, a number not significantly higher than in the last election cycle. The reasons are diverse, from a lack of signatures to arithmetic mistakes to doubts about whether a vote was properly marked in a ballot.

How many contested votes are at stake?

About 300,000 potential ballots are at stake, Reuters calculated, assuming standard absenteeism patterns. Some votes will be voided – voting is mandatory in Peru, so people who don’t want to pay a fine but also don’t want to vote sometimes draw doodles or leave the ballot blank.

Allowing for likely voided votes brings that number down to 280,000.

Could the contested votes swing the vote?

Anything can happen. Almost half of the contested ballots are in Lima, a bastion of support for Fujimori.

Fujimori is currently taking in slightly more votes than Castillo, boosted by overseas voters, whose ballots take longer to be counted. However, those votes alone are unlikely to be enough for her to overtake Castillo.

But once an electoral jury reviews the contested votes, where Fujimori-friendly Lima is overrepresented, that could make a difference.

Remember, Castillo is up by just 79,000 votes as of Tuesday morning.

“The current momentum on the vote tally favors Castillo with the markets already assuming a narrow victory,” said Siobhan Morden at Amherst Pierpont Securities in a note, adding though that things could always change. “It’s not over until it’s over.”