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After A Long Wait, Peru Has A New President-Elect

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

After a tense 43 days since its runoff election, Peru has a new president-elect. Pedro Castillo has been declared the winner by a tiny margin of just 44,000 votes out of a total of 17 1/2 million cast. Castillo is the son of poor farmers, and he's promised to overhaul Peru's political and economic system to address inequality. His opponent, Keiko Fujimori, is the daughter of a former president and represents the country's right-wing elite. Journalist Gustavo Gorriti has been following all of this and joins us now from Lima, Peru.

Welcome.

GUSTAVO GORRITI: My pleasure.

CHANG: Pleasure to have you with us. So why did it take more than a month to declare a winner for this election?

GORRITI: In part, from what you said, the margin was very tiny. And after that, there were a lot of contentions on the part of the Fujimori camp, and they demanded essentially a recount of voting. They said that there had been a fraud. And some of Donald Trump's voice was reverberating in the kind of arguments that were put forth here.

CHANG: In your reporting and in the reporting of other journalists, when it comes to these claims of election fraud, has anyone found any basis for those claims by Fujimori?

GORRITI: Well, the pro-Fujimori camp held to that point, but all the rest, including international observers, all coincided that the elections have been fair, that they had represented faithfully the popular will.

CHANG: So tell us more about Castillo's background, because he was not a conventional presidential candidate for Peru, right?

GORRITI: No. In this very unconventional election, he's probably the most unconventional factor. He is a provincial primary schoolteacher. He has also been a leader of the National Teachers Union, of the more radical one. He's a man that has not experienced at all in government, but he brings to the task a high working capacity. He tries to learn. And Castillo at least provided the kind of authenticity that was totally devoid in the case of Fujimori.

CHANG: And what now for Keiko Fujimori and her family? I know that you have been following them for decades as a journalist. What is next for Fujimori and her family's political reign in Peru?

GORRITI: Well, as you probably know, Fujimori, just before she went as a candidate, have been subjected to a prosecution accusation of massive money laundering. And the prosecutor has asked for 20 years jail for her. So for her, the prospects at this point are not very bright at all.

CHANG: And as Castillo begins to try to set up a new government - I mean, he has made very big promises to voters, such as changing the Constitution to give the state more control over the economy. Tell me, is there enough political will in Lima for him to actually accomplish a promise like that, you think?

GORRITI: He doesn't have any choice but to compromise. He needs to forge coalitions. And of course, if he decides to embark on a nationwide campaign to fight the pandemic, to try to curtail the pandemic as soon as possible, while beginning with economic recovery, that could give a very strong beginning to his regime.

CHANG: That is journalist Gustavo Gorriti. He is director of IDL-Reporters (ph), an investigative journalism publication in Lima, Peru.

Thank you very much for joining us today.

GORRITI: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.