Opposition Rejects Peruvian Election Results

BBC -- 29 May 2000

Peru's opposition leader, Alejandro Toledo, rejected the outcome of run-off presidential elections and urged the military to "side with the nation and not with President Alberto Fujimori."

He spoke as about 50,000 people packed a square in the centre of the capital, Lima, to protest against the presidential election - which went ahead despite international criticism.

Mr Toledo withdrew from the dispute and urged his supporters to boycott the poll because he said the vote was rigged in favour of President Fujimori. Mr Fujimori appeared to be heading for an easy victory and a third five-year term.

With 51% of the vote counted, he had 50.3% of the ballot compared to Mr Toledo's 16.2%, election officials said. They said 32.4% of the ballots had been spoiled and about 1% left blank. Election authorities said the level of absenteeism was similar to April's first round vote. Many Peruvians were reluctant to follow Mr Toledo's plea and miss voting because it would mean a $33 fine - a large sum in a country where more than half of the population live in poverty.


Mr Toledo has repeatedly said that Peru could plunge into violence, blaming the situation on the president. But the opposition leader stressed he would not seek to lead a military coup.

However, during the protest in Lima, former military leader general Francisco Morales joined Mr Toledo on stage, saying: "If there is no democracy there could be a revolution, but a peaceful revolution.

"Never in the past 50 years have we seen anything so shameful as this [electoral] process," said Mr Morales, who was president under the military dictatorship from 1975 to 1980.

During the rally, Mr Toledo urged his supporters to remain peaceful - but he said he would not accept the results of the vote. "Fujimori has taken off his mask, and killed democracy in Peru," he told the crowd.

Fraud allegations

The elections have been controversial with allegations of widespread frauds. Mr Toledo has accused President Fujimori of rigging the first round of voting, and asked for the run-off to be pushed back three weeks to give election monitors time to check computerised vote counting systems. International organisations pulled out on Thursday saying the election would neither be free nor fair. They said the vote was undemocratic due to glitches in vote-counting computers, media bias and state handouts to the poor aimed at boosting Mr Fujimori's campaign.

Foreign governments criticised the decision of the electoral court to go ahead with the vote even with the widespread criticism. President Bill Clinton warned that the elections could jeopardise the relations between Peru and the US.

But President Fujimori defied international pressure. "In Peru we have fully democratic elections that follow international standards," he said before casting his vote.

The Organisation of American States, which pulled its monitors out last week, is expected to give its response at an emergency meeting on Wednesday.