Constitutional Crisis Roils Peru as Election Official Quits

Peru is in the grip of a constitutional crisis as the departure of a key election official creates a new obstacle to naming the next president.

Luis Arce, one of the four-member committee responsible for declaring the winner of the June 6 presidential vote, was suspended after he refused to take any further part in the electoral process. That makes it impossible for his colleagues to proceed until someone takes his place.

The nation is on edge with many Peruvians interpreting the events as an attempt by supporters of candidate Keiko Fujimori to overturn the election result. With all ballots counted, Pedro Castillo from the Marxist Free Peru party is ahead by a slender margin, but Fujimori is alleging fraud and refusing to concede.

Constitutional Crisis Roils Peru as Election Official Quits

Fujimori is favored by investors and business leaders, while Castillo won more votes among the poor, especially in rural districts. The U.S. State Department and the European Union both said this week that the election was clean.

Castillo supporters, and some other political leaders and analysts described the events as an attack on the constitutional order. The country has been afflicted by extreme political volatility recently, with three presidents since November.

“The truth is that here they are preparing a coup,” said George Forsyth, a presidential candidate who was eliminated in the first round in April.

The fear of seeing a candidate from a Marxist party in the presidency has led Castillo’s opponents to “play with fire” by trying to disrupt the electoral process, said Rodolfo Rojas, a partner of the Lima-based Sequoia political advisory group.

Constitutional Crisis Roils Peru as Election Official Quits

Jo-Marie Burt, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, which studies human rights, described the events as a “slow-motion coup.”

Fujimori’s campaign didn’t reply to a written message seeking comment.

The nation’s dollar bonds due 2051 rallied on Friday, sending the yield down to 3.42%. Peru’s bonds, stocks and currency have all been afflicted by high levels of volatility during the election.

‘Safeguard Democracy’

Castillo got 50.1% of the votes against 49.9% for Fujimori. But she is demanding that the electoral authorities review ballots deemed irregular by her party. The winner will take office July 28.

Luis Arce said Wednesday that he would no longer take part in the process after the committee rejected 10 appeals from Fujimori’s party.

The electoral court, known as JNE, said on Twitter Thursday that it would suspend Arce. The Attorney General’s office named a replacement, Victor Rodriguez, though it’s unclear whether he will agree to take part in the committee’s decisions, or whether his attitude will mirror Arce’s.

Earlier, the court said it would “safeguard democracy, and prevent this from affecting the culmination of the electoral process.”

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