In an agonizingly tight race featuring months of theatrics from an unprecedented five presidential candidates, the climax in the weeks ahead of Sunday’s vote in Peru has been the dramatic and unforeseen rise of nationalist Ollanta Humala.
Nervous investors in Lima, who thought they had seen the last of Humala when he narrowly lost the 2006 election, joke—half way—about leaving the country. Die-hard Humala supporters speak passionately about the potential for a new economic model in the resource-rich Andean nation. Despite being one of the world’s fastest growing economies, Peru is stuck with a high 35 percent poverty rate.
But as Peruvian sociologist Julio Cotler points out, Peru is not Venezuela and Humala would likely fall short of delivering the dramatic change as president that many, for better or worse, expect of him—if he manages to eke out a second-round victory in the June runoff.
Humala 2.0, a churchgoing family man who wears suits and ties, downplays his military past and has virtually disowned his radical brother, who is in jail for leading a failed uprising. He does not utter the name “Hugo Chávez,” though Venezuela’s president loomed large during his 2006 campaign, and he pledges to respect Peru’s free-trade agreements (FTAs) and the central bank’s independence.
The whole transformation is eerily reminiscent of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former radical who arguably became Brazil’s most popular president ever.
The five main candidates in Peru’s presidential election, to be held on Sunday, met in Lima yesterday for a debate that focused largely on economic and social issues. The participants included: Ollanta Humala (Gana Perú); Alejandro Toledo (Perú Posible); Keiko Fujimori (Fuerza 2011); Luis Castañeda (Solidaridad Nacional); and Pedro Pablo Kuzynski (Alianza por el Gran Cambio).
Kuzynski was described as being seemingly hesitant and Castañeda as lost in the mechanics of the debate. Former frontrunner Toledo aggressively went after his opponents for their perceived weaknesses. Toledo attacked Fujimori by saying that her father (former President Alberto Fujimori) left Peru in bad economic shape. Keiko had told voters she would continue the policies of her father, who is incarcerated for human rights violations. Humala, on the other hand, tried to strike a conciliatory tone and shake off allegations of perceived closeness to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Bolivian President Evo Morales. Humala presented himself as an alternative to Peru’s presidential administrations of the past 20 years.
Humala appears to have been the main beneficiary of yesterday’s debate. According to an Ipsos Apoyo poll released yesterday, support for Humala jumped to 26 percent of the electorate, up from 21 percent last week. Fujimori, Toledo and Kuzynski remain in a three-way statistical tie for second, while Castañeda trails in last place. If no single candidate garners 50 percent of the vote on April 10, the top two candidates will advance to a runoff in June.
With Peru’s presidential election occurring less than two weeks from today, nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala has taken the lead according to two polls published yesterday. His lead reflects a surging candidacy and a decline in momentum for former President Alejandro Toledo.
An Ipsos poll has Humala leading with 21.2 percent of the vote, with early frontrunner Alejandro Toledo trailing with 20 percent, and Keiko Fujimori, legislator and daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, with 19 percent. Behind Fujimori are former economy minister Pedro Pablo Kuzynski and former Lima mayor Luis Castañeda—logging 15 and 14 percent, respectively.
A second poll, from the Lima-based firm CPI, has Toledo in third place—pulling in 18.6 percent of the vote, with Humala and Fujimori in the top two spots. CPI also highlights that 27 percent of the electorate remain undecided. Given the necessary 50 percent of votes needed on April 10 to avoid a run-off (scheduled for June 5 if necessary), the race for the presidency is still wide open.
Humala, the leader of the Partido Nacionalista Peruano (Peruvian Nationalist Party), lost to current president Alan García in 2006 in a run-off and has since remained a popular voice in Peruvian politics.
A month away from the first round of voting in Peru’s presidential election, former President Alejandro Toledo (2001–2005) leads in the polls. The margin by which he leads, however, is not wide enough to avoid a runoff in which he would likely face Keiko Fujimori, daughter of another former president, Alberto Fujimori (1990–2000), or Luis Castañeda, a former mayor of the city of Lima. The election has attracted only lukewarm enthusiasm from the general public.
Latest polls show Toledo, of the Perú Posible political party, earning 30 percent of the vote, while Fujimori of Fuerza 2011 and Luis Castañeda of Solidaridad Nacional are tied as runners-up, currently projected to earn 19.2 and 19.6 percent of the vote, respectively, on April 10. Although of divergent pasts, the principal candidates share a campaign position of maintaining the current, free-market economic model, which has led to unprecedented and sustained growth in Peru (8.8 percent in 2010).
The notorious unreliability of polls in Peru notwithstanding, a number of analysts suggest Toledo has the greatest chance of ultimately winning the presidency. Nelson Manrique commented that he has “carried out his campaign the best and has been able to capture the votes of distinct sectors from all over the country.” Recently traveling in Peru’s northern areas, which lack such basic infrastructure and services as roads and hospitals, Toledo has campaigned on the promise of completing the social reforms he began during his first presidency, and has promised higher taxes on the rich and on mining companies’ windfall profits.
For his part, some analysts say, Castañeda is unlikely to repeat at a national level the popularity he earned as Lima mayor, which reached 80 percent. On the other hand, some recent polls show him beating both Toledo and Fujimori in the case of a runoff. And while Fujimori could attract significant votes, she, too, has limitations, relying on a loyal group of voters who would support her no matter what, but unable to win over those who would never vote for her.
Fujimori, for better or worse, is often perceived as carrying out the legacy of her father, who is currently serving a sentence of 25 years in prison for corruption and human rights violations committed during his presidency, but who enjoys great popularity among certain sectors of the population.
Former President Alejandro Toledo announced his intention yesterday to seek the presidency of Peru—an office that he held from 2001 through 2006. The 64 year-old will file for candidacy under the Peru Posible party that he founded in 1994. In his official announcement, Toledo pledged to fight for social equality, economic benefits to the poor and the prevention of corruption across the country.
President Toledo was elected in 2001 after the resignation of Alberto Fujimori—who is currently incarcerated for crimes against humanity—and the subsequent interim presidency of Valentín Paniagua. He took centrist and pro-market positions during his mandate and presided over a period of wide economic growth, even while his approval numbers dropped toward the end in his term.
A poll published earlier this week placed Toledo at third among constituent support for the upcoming April 2011 vote, at 16 percent. Among the candidate pool, ex-Mayor of Lima Luis Castañeda led the survey with 26 percent, followed by Keiko Fujimori, current congresswoman and daughter of the imprisoned ex-president, at 24 percent. Mr. Toledo is the first officially-announced candidate, although Mr. Castañeda and Ms. Fujimori are widely expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.
Toledo is expected to draw significant support from the remote Andean regions of the country, where he was raised in a small village.