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Peru waits for next president with vote count stuck near completion

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By Marco Aquino and Stefanie Eschenbacher

LIMA, June 14 (Reuters) - Peruvians were still waiting for their next president to be confirmed on Monday morning, more than a week after a polarizing run-off vote, with socialist Pedro Castillo clinging to a narrow lead that would tilt the country firmly to the left.

The election count, which has been stuck since Saturday at 99.935% tallied, showed the former teacher with 50.14%, less than 50,000 votes ahead of right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori, who has made allegations of fraud, though with little proof.

Castillo, 51, little-known before a surprise win in the first-round vote in April, has rattled the copper-rich Andean country's political and business elite with plans to redraft the constitution and sharply hike taxes on mining.

He has said Peruvians have already "chosen their path" while his far-left Free Peru party has hailed victory, despite attempts by Fujimori to annul some votes that went against her holding up the official confirmation of the result.

It is still unclear when the country's electoral body will formally announce the winner, though Castillo has called for the count to be wrapped up quickly to end the uncertainty.

Fujimori, 46, scion of a powerful political family and daughter of ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who is serving jail time for corruption and human rights abuses, has vowed to fight on until the last vote is counted.

Castillo's party has rejected her accusations of fraud and international observers of the process in Lima have said that the elections were carried out cleanly.

If confirmed, Castillo's win would be a major boon for the region's political left. The socialist hails from a poor area of northern Peru and has galvanized the rural vote, angry at feeling left behind in Peru's growth story.

Rising levels of poverty and inequality have also cast a harsh spotlight on the traditional political elites, which has been intensified by the world's deadliest per capita COVID-19 outbreak that has hammered the mining-driven economy.

Marches by supporters of both candidates have broken out in Lima over the past week, with some voters in favor of Castillo arriving to the capital from rural areas to protest and Fujimori supporters backing her accusations of fraud.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino and Stefanie Eschenbacher in Lima; writing by Adam Jourdan; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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