IN THE NEWS #431 - Peru Elections

By Cynthia Kirk

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

In Peru, opposition candidate Alejandro Toledo is calling for continued protests against the presidential election there. President Alberto Fujimori was elected Sunday to a third five-year term. Mr. Toledo refused to take part in that vote. He said conditions to hold free and fair elections did not exist. International observers suspended their work before the vote took place.

Peruvian officials say they regret that international observers did not take part. But they say the election was democratic. Final results were announced Thursday. They show President Fujimori with fifty-one percent of the vote.

Mr. Toledo received almost eighteen percent. His name remained on the ballot although he withdrew. The election office says the rest of the ballots -- thirty-one percent -- were either ruined or left unmarked. Many voters honored Mr. Toledo's request not to vote or to write no to cheating on their ballots.

Mr. Toledo promises a national campaign to prevent Mr. Fujimori's inauguration, set for July Twenty-Eighth. He says he will lead a march of four million people from all over Peru, two days before the swearing-in ceremony. But some say Mr. Toledo lacks the ability to carry out such a campaign. They say President Fujimori still enjoys wide support for improving the economy and crushing Maoist rebels.

Alejandro Toledo is a former official of the World Bank. He is an economist who studied in the United States. The opposition leader protested his loss in the first presidential vote in April. He said there was cheating. And he said the state-controlled media did not report fairly about his campaign. President Fujimori came close to victory in April, but he failed to win a majority, so a second vote was needed. Last week, Mr. Toledo withdrew. A series of strikes and demonstrations by his supporters followed that announcement.

The elections were widely criticized because of state support for Mr. Fujimori's political campaign. There were also questions about the computer system used to count the votes. United States and Latin American diplomats had urged Peruvian officials to delay the second part of the election. But President Fujimori said it was illegal to delay the election more than thirty days after the results of the first vote were announced.

The American State Department called the Peruvian election a threat to democracy in the area. Other countries also condemned the results. Mr. Toledo says he will not ask for economic restrictions against his country, because those would hurt citizens. Foreign ministers of the Organization of American States will discuss the events in Peru during their meeting Sunday in Canada.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English