Washington, D.C.— On Wednesday, July 28, Pedro Castillo will be sworn in as Peru’s President after a tumultuous month and a half following the second round of voting on June 6. Castillo narrowly defeated right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori. But Fujimori made baseless allegations of fraud, drawing out the formal announcement of Castillo’s victory, which came on July 19. Although the most immediate challenge to Castillo’s inauguration has passed, the road ahead remains fraught with difficulties for Peru and its next leader.
Pedro Castillo is the first campesino—rural farmer—to be elected to Peru’s highest office. His appeals to a more just and inclusive Peru struck a chord with sectors of the country who have been excluded and marginalized based on their ethnicity, their social class, and on their place of residence.
Castillo, who ran on the ticket of the leftist Peru Libre (PL) party, will not enjoy anything close to a legislative majority. The PL holds only 37 out of 180 seats in Peru’s unicameral Congress and will be challenged from the outset by a coalition of right-wing parties determined to thwart most, if not all, of his policy agenda. Congressional opponents may even seek to remove Castillo from office, or at least put him on the defensive, through use of the “moral incapacity” clause under Peru’s 1993 Constitution.
Beyond the challenges looming to Castillo’s presidency before he even takes office, little is known of Castillo’s actual policy agenda, cabinet picks, and concrete plans to address the country’s ongoing struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns abound around some of Peru Libre’s policy proposals, including proposals to remove Peru from the Inter-American Human Rights System, dissolve the Constitutional Tribunal, and reinstate the death penalty.
The 2021 electoral cycle further exposed the fault lines in Peru’s democracy. Fujimori’s insistence on her false narrative of fraud is undermining confidence in Peru’s electoral institutions and aims to challenge the very legitimacy of Castillo’s presidency. In an in-depth analysis of the long-term challenges facing the country, Dr. Jo-Marie Burt, an expert on Peruvian politics and Senior Fellow at WOLA, noted: “While the election crisis provoked by Keiko Fujimori’s baseless claims of fraud is now over, there are more turbulent times ahead for Peru.”
Dr. Burt lived in Peru during the 1990s and wrote a definitive study of the Fujimori dictatorship. She was an international observer at the landmark trial of Alberto Fujimori, who was convicted of grave human rights violations in 2009 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. She published several reports directly from the courtroom, organized international observation missions to the trial, and advocated on behalf of the rights of victims’ access to justice during and after the proceedings.
Ahead of the swearing in ceremony of president-elect Pedro Castillo on July 28, Dr. Burt is available to provide comments and analysis on the significance of this moment and what governance challenges Castillo will face in the coming months.
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