Slow tally

12 June 2016

The Peruvian voting system starts with votes being cast at a voting booth. All those who vote have to sign and leave their fingerprint. Each booth is run by a president and two secretaries. Each voting booth prepares a final report of votes cast, a tally or 'acta', before the voting slips themselves are destroyed. This is now the legal document that needs to be validated by ONPE. Five copies of the acta are produced each for a different electoral authority. Representatives from the parties – personeros – can be there and they also can take a copy. It is important that personeros from different parties are present as their combined presence mitigates against fraud. The actas have to be physically transported to the offices of ONPE in Lima, which means that those from distant rural areas or abroad take longer. The actas can be questioned (observadas) if there are mistakes in the arithmetic or if signatures are missing. They can also be challenged (inpugnadas) if they appear to have been tampered with or if a party’s representatives consider that they have been tampered with. In such cases the other copies have to be examined by the electoral juries (jurados).

Owing to this time-consuming procedure, there can be delays in announcing final results, particularly when (as in this case) the count is very close. At the beginning of the count, the gap between Kuczynski and Fujimori was wider, reflecting votes cast in Lima. Then, as the votes from the north and smaller cities in central Peru came in, the gap narrowed. In some places the gap was extremely narrow; in Pasco in the central Andes, PPK won by 3 votes. It was only towards the end, when votes of Peruvians living abroad were included, that the trend started to go the other way.

Given the closeness of the race, it is perhaps unsurprising that tempers frayed; many feared that the delay might be a sign of foul play at work. Over this period, political experts such as Ivan Lanegra (former vice minister for intercultural affairs) kept a detailed tally of the results as they were announced, helping the public have a better understanding of both the process involved and the real chances of the results changing.

The final tally showed that Kuczynski beat Fujimori by only 41,684 votes. There were still five actas that were ‘observadas’ and 29 ‘impugnadas’, insufficient to change the result in any substantial way. The turnout was slightly above 80%. In Peru, voting is obligatory.

The geographical distribution of the vote showed Fujimori wining throughout the northern part of Peru and in the centre. Kuczynski won throughout the south (with the exception of Ica) and in Lima.

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