Lima’s mayor to be determined following review of more than a million ballots

The winner of the election for Lima’s mayor will be known after authorities from Peru’s Special Election Board (JEE) review more than a million ballots flagged for irregularities over the next three to five days.

On Tuesday, Peru’s National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) announced that after counting 73.8 percent of the ballots, Susana Villarán of the Fuerza Social party maintained a razor thin lead over her conservative opponent Lourdes Flores.

Villarán obtained 38.49 percent of the valid votes, compared to 37.58 percent for Flores, a difference of about 31,000 votes. The election was held on Sunday, Oct. 3.

An unusually high number of ballot tally sheets from districts were held up for review because of irregularities.  Half the 8,384 cases were officially attributed to tally sheets lacking the mandatory signatures and fingerprints of citizen poll workers who showed up hours late and stayed up until the wee hours as a consequence, marking an unusually chaotic election day. They were tired and they made lots of mistakes, said ONPE chief Magdalena Chú.

Tensions in Peru’s political class are running high. No one wants to conjure memories of  political strife from Peru’s recent past, but in the midst of it all, there are stark reminders. Jailed ex-intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos  received an 8½-year sentence on Tuesday for fixing elections — including the 1998 municipal ballot — to favor his boss, imprisoned ex-President Alberto Fujimori.

With suggestions of electoral shenanigans mounting, the head of the JEE, Hugo Molina, thought it necessary to offer an assurance that the electoral body will remain impartial.

“I call on all citizens to stay relaxed and wait with patience and faith for the results,” daily El Comercio reported Molina as saying. “We are going to guarantee that who the people [voted for] stays as such. We won’t favor anyone.”

National talk show host Jaime Bayly continues to be a driving force, articulating reasons for citizens to have doubts, as well as generating debate about the power of his own celebrity and the veracity of his arguments and evidence.

The former president of Peru’s Congress, Henry Pease, called on the government to implement electronic voting in order to prevent a similar delay in future election results.

“I think we should be obliged to demand that they regulate the electronic vote law, because what is happening in these last few days, which is distressing, is due to a lack of modernity,” Pease told Ideeleradio. “In Brazil, after two hours things are absolutely clear, you don’t have this slowness, which is not the fault of ONPE, because it is an archaic method.”

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