As the battle with Corona virus rages, Peruvians vote in a “fragmented” presidential election

Lima, April 12 2021: Last week was the deadliest in the pandemic for Peru so far. But the presidential poll took place on schedule in a crisis weary nation. The elections seem headed for a run-off as early exit polls showed far-left labor unionist Pedro Castillo in the lead with 16.1 percent. The same inconclusive result had rightist economist Hernando de Soto and corruption-accused populist Keiko Fujimori sharing the second place with 11.9 percent each, all for off from the 51% required to avoid a run-off.

Also in the running were center-right Yonhy Lescano, leftist anthropologist Veronika Mendoza, former football goalkeeper George Forsyth. Ahead of the vote, an Ipsos opinion poll showed a mere four percentage-point difference between the first- and seventh-placed candidates. Almost a third of voters were undecided.

On Saturday, the total number of deaths was 384, bringing the overall toll to more than 54,600 in the country of 33 million people. More than 11,200 new daily cases were reported, adding to another 1.6 million to date. Peru’s government had decided to press ahead with elections as South America battles a surge in infections fueled by new virus variants believed to be more contagious.

Weary electors say just as they stand in line for oxygen cylinders for loved ones, they also queue for the vote, some merely to avoid the $24 fee for not voting. They say they are afraid of the pandemic but feel they must stand in line for the vote.In an ironical twist, 6 presidential candidates have already contracted the virus. Despite the pandemic outlook, election campaigning had continued until late in the week, with candidates drawing hundreds of followers to large rallies.

Even as polling stations remain open for 12 hours, some voters still can’t make it to the polls as they line up for oxygen tanks for loved ones. They say it is unfair that they have to make such a choice.

The uncertain outcome has the markets worried, and the Peruvian sol plunged to a record low 3.8 to the US dollar, adding to the future president’s full in-tray. Peru has been in recession since the second quarter of last year after coronavirus lock-down shuttered businesses and crippled the all-important tourism sector and its economy contracting by nearly 11 percent.

The country has also been convulsed by political upheaval driven by claims of corruption at the highest echelons. This will be Peru’s fifth president in three years, after three fell within days of each other in November 2020 amid protests that left two people dead and hundreds injured.

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