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Supporters of Keiko Fujimori, a right-wing Peruvian presidential candidate, protest in Lima, Peru's capital on June 20, 2021. A month after polls closed, officials have yet to declare a victor in the Peruvian presidential vote, as they consider Keiko Fujimori's demand that ballots be thrown out.MARCO GARRO/The New York Times News Service

They showed up for the rally by the thousands in red and white, the colours of their right-wing movement, swapping conspiracy theories and speaking ominously of civil war, some brandishing shields with crosses meant to exalt European heritage.

On the stage, their leader, presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori, let loose on her headline issue: election fraud.

Although electoral officials say her opponent, leftist union leader Pedro Castillo, leads by more than 40,000 votes with all the ballots counted, they have yet to declare a victor a month after the polls closed, as they consider Fujimori’s demand that tens of thousands of ballots be thrown out.

No one has come forward, even weeks later, to corroborate Fujimori’s claims of fraud; international observers have found no evidence of major irregularities; and both the United States and the European Union have praised the electoral process.

But Fujimori’s claims have delayed the certification of a victor.

Many in Peru have pointed out that Fujimori’s assertions echo those made by Donald Trump in 2020, and by Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel this year. The difference, they say, is that Peru’s democratic institutions are far weaker, leaving the country more susceptible to increasing turmoil, a coup or an authoritarian turn.

Voters could hardly have faced a starker choice when they went to the polls June 6 to decide between Castillo, the son of peasant farmers who enjoys broad Indigenous and rural support, and Fujimori, a symbol of the Peruvian elite and the heir to a right-wing populist movement started three decades ago by her father, former President Alberto Fujimori.

But Castillo’s links to more radical politicians – his party is headed by a man who has praised President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela for consolidating power – and his proposal to change the Constitution to give the state a greater role in the economy have fanned fears among affluent Peruvians.

With a new president scheduled to be sworn in July 28, many members of Peru’s elite are backing Fujimori’s efforts to nullify the votes. Hundreds of retired military officers have sent a letter to top military chiefs urging them to not recognize “an illegitimate president.” A former Supreme Court justice filed a lawsuit requesting that the entire election be annulled.

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