Right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori is narrowly beating her left-wing rival Pedro Castillo in Peru’s presidential runoff, according to an exit poll released Sunday by the firm Ipsos after polling stations closed.
Fujimori had 50.3% of the vote, while Castillo won 49.7%.
The country faced a choice between two extremes: neoliberal Fujimori, 46, the daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, who faces 30 years in prison on charges of corruption and human rights abuses, and Pedro Castillo, 51, a union activist schoolteacher with no governing experience.
Castillo took Peruvians by surprise when he won the first round in April, which saw votes split among a number of candidates from all political movements. He won nearly 19% of the votes, followed by Fujimori, with 13.4% -- results that finally forced Sunday’s runoff election.
The presidential race has completely occupied the country's political agenda in recent months. Polls published days before the elections showed it would be a very close race, as Castillo slightly led the polls with 51.1%, while Fujimori trailed behind with 48.9%.
During the campaign, the Fuerza Popular party candidate Fujimori received endorsements from important personalities in the country, including Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, who said he considered her a "lesser evil" to save the country from "totalitarianism.”
Upon learning of the preliminary poll results, Castillo called for calm.
“What we have heard is nothing official," he said, after calling his supporters out onto the streets.
"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," Castillo wrote on Twitter.
Political uncertainty has gripped this South American country in recent years. During a five-year period, the country has been ruled by four presidents. In November 2020, the country was led by three presidents within a week.
Peruvians also face an economic and health crisis in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peru more than doubled its COVID-19 death toll after it revised its official numbers last week, making it the country with the world's worst official toll in the world, according to data from US-based Johns Hopkins University.
The death toll increased to more than 180,000, up from 69,342, in a country of over 33 million people. It has now registered nearly two million infections and more than 186,000 deaths.
The new president will take office on July 28.