Peruvians await results of knife-edge election

Peru's presidential election outcome teetered on a knife’s edge on Monday.

Conservative candidate Keiko Fujimori was clinging to a razor-thin lead, with socialist rival Pedro Castillo catching up in what could prove a photo finish.

The official count showed Fujimori with around 50.2% and Castillo on 49.8%.

The vote underscored a sharp divide between the capital city Lima and the nation's rural hinterland that propelled Castillo's unexpected rise.

The remaining votes are expected to come from rural areas, favoring the leftist candidate.

The tight result could lead to days of uncertainty and tension.

The two candidates offered sharply divergent visions for a country that went through three presidents in a week last year.

Fujimori pledged to follow the free-market model in the world's second-largest copper producer.

Castillo vowed to shake up the constitution and share mining profits with the poor.

But with the final votes being counted, both contenders called for calm.

Fujimori said the outcome mattered for Peruvians of every political stripe:

"There are no winners or losers here. Finally, what we have to look for is the unity of all Peruvians. That is why I ask both groups for calm, patience, peace, to those who voted and didn't vote for us."

Castillo beseeched his supporters to wait for the last votes to trickle in:

"We need to count our votes, the vote of the province, I ask you for tranquility and unity."

Whoever wins will have a weakened mandate given the divisions in Peru, and will face stiff and immediate challenges.

Peru is suffering a sharp economic slump brought on by the world's deadliest per-capita COVID-19 outbreak.

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