Give Peruvians their day in court
During the Peruvian presidential campaign earlier this year, socialist candidate Pedro Castillo told voters he would nationalize the assets of foreign investors. He did not say if that would apply to Chinese companies that own billions of dollars in Peruvian mining interests. But to predict that it won’t is not really to take risks.
Mr. Castillo is a rabid anti-capitalist backed by the Peruvian far left. It’s a perfect partner for Beijing, which doesn’t even pretend to care about corruption or human rights. China is eager to increase its political and economic influence in South America, and it made inroads into Peru when, in May 2019, then-President Martin Vizcarra – who was later indicted on corruption charges. and removed from office –sign at his initiative “the Belt and the Road”.
The card of China Mr. Castillo should play is one of the reasons why Peruvians, along with the United States and other democracies, have an interest in transparent scrutiny of contested votes in the second round of the election. presidential election of June 6. But it is not the only one.
The difference between the vote totals for Mr Castillo and his center-right rival, Keiko Fujimori, is extremely narrow. If Mr Castillo is declared the winner, he has threatened to use his slim majority as a justification to tear up the country’s economically liberal constitution and replace it with something closer to that of Venezuela. It’s no exaggeration to say that he estimates that 50.1% of the vote gives the winner the right to roll the rights of the remaining 49.9%.
This is no reason to deny Mr. Castillo a victory if he won fairly. But it strengthens the case for maximum transparency, which can only be guaranteed by an impartial hearing for both parties. If Mr. Castillo can be taken at his word, Peruvian freedom is at stake.
On June 10, 17 former presidents of Latin America and Spain issued a statement calling on both sides to show leadership while Peru’s electoral authorities complete their oversight responsibilities.
Peruvians are still waiting.
Mr. Castillo’s camp says the result has already been decided as it is ahead by around 44,000 votes after some disputes were resolved by the electoral authorities. Ms. Fujimori says some 200,000 additional votes — the majority in favor of Mr. Castillo — should be overturned on the grounds of fraud. She says she can prove it if the electoral council releases the data and the court agrees to hear the evidence.
Supporters of Mr. Castillo, who claim to love democracy, want to deny this possibility. Alberto Fernández, Argentina’s left-wing president, congratulated Castillo on Twitter days after the election, adding some gibberish about the country’s “institutional strength”.
But it is too early to conclude that the institutions have worked. First, Peruvians must be allowed to challenge election results, as is their right under Peruvian law.
Some not-so-bright opponents of Donald Trump collapsed last fall when I suggested that Trump’s challenges be allowed to go through the courts. They were wrong. By allowing judges – many of whom have been appointed by Republicans – to examine allegations of massive fraud, the process has gone legally.
Peruvians deserve equal treatment and transparency, and public trust in institutions demands it too. Access to justice petitions are not only legitimate but would clarify the results.
It is likely that Mr. Castillo understands this better than most. In what appears to be an effort to close the case quickly, he has withdrawn his appeals not yet heard by the national electoral court.
This tribunal, which decides which appeals will be heard, has had a difficult start. It has five seats but only four are filled. The president of the tribunal, whose sympathies with the left are well established, is legally the tiebreaker.
The court requests that the challenges be filed within three days of the election, with proof that the lawyers have paid the required fees. Hundreds of disputes are pending as the court has yet to decide whether failure to comply with these technical details would render them invalid.
Ms. Fujimori’s lawyers argue that the court should consider her challenges on the merits rather than on arbitrary time frames. The court appeared to have some empathy for this argument on Friday, June 11, when it decided it would accept the late challenges. Later that same day, he reversed his own decision, sparking speculation he was under enormous pressure from the left to rush to a victory for Castillo.
If Mr. Castillo cheated, with the help of political allies like Cuba-trained Vladimir Cerrón, who heads Mr. Castillo’s Peru Free Party, then Peruvians deserve to know it. If he didn’t cheat and the nation voted, even narrowly, for a candidate who has repeatedly promised to blow up the market economy, they deserve to know it too.
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