Peru will elect a new President on Sunday in a second-round election pitting Fuerza 2011 candidate Keiko Fujimori against Gana Perú candidate Ollanta Humala. Both candidates yesterday delivered their closing campaign speeches in which Humala focused on the fight against poverty and inequality, while Fujimori stressed pro-growth policies and pledged to honor all of Peru’s free trade agreements. The rallies took place less than 1 kilometer apart in downtown Lima. Fujimori, who has worked hard to win the support of centrist voters, also expressed her concerns about Humala’s formerly close ties to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez saying, “I would never allow another country to interfere with the affairs of our country."
The latest polls by polling firm Ipsos Apoyo show the candidates nearly neck and neck with Fujimori slightly ahead of Humala 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent.
For many, it seems, economic concerns will trump fears that a Fujimori administration could jeopardize Peru’s recent progress in protecting human rights and combatting corruption. ''The higher-income groups will vote for Fujimori because of her economic policies…they are worried about corruption and human rights abuses, but in the end they'll vote to protect their wallets,” said Andrea Stiglich, a Latin America specialist at the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit.
In the final weeks of a bruising presidential campaign, human rights activists and democracy defenders in Peru have rallied around left-wing nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala—not because they are overly confident in his candidacy, but because they fear a return to the past.
“From Humala we have doubts, but with Keiko we have proof,” they say, referring to the candidacy of Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, who is in jail on charges of corruption and human rights abuse.
Keiko has said she will not free her father if she is elected president, and that she suffered as a young woman watching the collapse of his regime—something she does not want her own two daughters to experience.
While most voters accept that Keiko, 36, is not her father—a fact of which she reminded them daily during the four weeks leading up to the run-off vote—they question why the young Fujimori has included many of her father’s advisors in his campaign, and why she has said he was the best president ever.
For several weeks now, Keiko Fujimori has been ahead in most of the major polls. If she wins, she will be the first female president in Peru. While Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, who ran against Keiko’s father in 1990 has said the choice between Ollanta Humala and Keiko is like choosing between AIDS and cancer, no one has asked what it would mean to have a female president in Peru. At least some academic literature suggests there are differences between male and female heads of states.
Would Keiko Fujimori lead differently than a male counterpart? Would Keiko’s policies better benefit women?
There is a wide body of literature around women and corruption. Here, it has been suggested than women possess certain innate qualities that make them less corrupt than men. Given this assumption, would Keiko be less corrupt than her male counterpart? Keiko is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for corruption and human rights abuses. While many argue that children are not necessarily replicas of their parents, she has surrounded herself with her father’s old advisors and there have been reports that her father is leading her election campaign from prison. Her top campaign advisor is Jaime Yoshiyama, who helped rewrite Peru's constitution after Alberto Fujimori shut down congress in 1992.
Less than 10 days before Peru’s presidential run-off election, Keiko Fujimori of the Fuerza 2011 ticket is pulling ahead of Gana Perú candidate Ollanta Humala, according to the latest figures by polling firm Datum. Fujimori had the support of 52.9 percent of respondents, compared to 47.1 percent for Humala. This latest poll, which surveyed 1,214 people and was conducted on Sunday, indicates an increase in Fujimori’s lead of about one percentage point from the previous poll, conducted earlier this month.
Humala was scheduled to travel to Brazil today to meet with President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—after whom Humala has tried to recast his public image. However, Humala decided to cancel the trip at the last minute, according to spokesman Javier Diez Canseco, so that he could focus on consolidating popular support during the final campaign stretch.
Humala is a former political mentee of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and appears to be struggling to convince voters that he has abandoned his radical-left past. Although he has vowed to govern as a moderate and has backed down on earlier proposals to increase taxes and take over private pension funds, the Datum poll showed that fully half of Peru’s voters believe Humala might govern as an authoritarian ruler. Only one-third of voters think he will honor the country’s international agreements, including free trade deals.
Fujimori, daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, enjoys strong backing by the business community, who believe she will continue the free-market economic reforms begun by her father in the 1990s. Critics feel she is too close to her father politically and over-reliant on his former aides and policy advisors.
Over the past few months, multiple hopefuls have emerged, surged and then collapsed in the race to become Peru’s next president. Former Lima Mayor Luis Castañeda, the first to declare his candidacy, led early polls, but finished a distant fifth place in Sunday’s vote. Former President Alejandro Toledo, whose support hovered around 30 percent in many polls, was expected to coast into the second-round vote. Instead, he finished in fourth place. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a less-than-well-known technocrat, was polling at five percent only a month before the election, but he surged in recent weeks with strong support from businesses and young voters and finished a strong third place on Sunday. Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori—daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori—had difficulties moving beyond her father’s traditional support base (around 20 percent of the electorate), but with the moderate vote split between three candidates this was enough to pass on to the second round. Two-time presidential candidate Ollanta Humala tapped into many Peruvians’ dissatisfaction with the lopsided distribution of wealth that has accompanied the rapid growth of recent years, and surged from 10 percent to 30 percent support in only a few weeks.
Now Humala will face Fujimori in the June 5 runoff.
The Peruvian civil society group Transparencia-Perú conducted an election-day observation and quick count predicting the following final results (with a 1.5 percent margin of error):
Ollanta Humala (Gana Perú) 31.3 percent
Keiko Fujimori (Fuerza 2011) 23.2 percent
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (Alianza por el Gran Cambio) 18.7 percent
Alejandro Toledo (Perú Posible) 15.9 percent
Luis Castañeda (Alianza Solidaridad Nacional) 10.0 percent
With just over two months to go before voting in Peru’s presidential elections on April 10, candidates are now devoting their attention to a social concern that has not been a front-and-center issue in national politics. The focus on same-sex marriage comes on the heels of disparaging remarks made on January 24 by Bishop Emeritus of Chimbote Luis Bambarén that were directed at the gay community. He also stated that discussion on “useless things like gay marriage” was a ploy by politicians to garner more votes.
Currently leading in polls, former president Alejandro Toledo of the Perú Posible party has made statements suggesting that he is open to civil unions and working “toward an inclusive society.” Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Alianza por el Gran Cambio and Keiko Fujimori of Fuerza 2011 have both declared themselves in favor of civil unions as well. According to recent CPI and Datum polls, Toledo is in the lead by only a few percentage points over Luis Castañeda of Solidaridad Nacional with Keiko Fujimori in third place. Similar statements have been made by Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros of Fuerza Social. Mr. Cuadros has declared that he is in favor of reforming Peru’s laws to allow for same-sex marriages. Other candidates have not gone as far. Among them, Catañeda has proposed inheritance benefits while calling changing current laws to permit same-sex unions “a crazy… idea.”
Political analysts in Peru note that the gay vote played a key role in the recent election of Susana Villarán as mayor of Lima and so will now play a similar role in the presidential election. According to Fernando Vivas of BBC Mundo, the increasing role of the gay vote in Peru has helped to raise the issue of gay rights above other topics like illiteracy and poverty eradication in the election debate.
Former economic and finance minister of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, has confirmed that he will officially enter the race for the presidency of Peru next Monday. Kuczynski’s candidacy will be on behalf of an alliance between the Restauración Nacional (RN), Partido Humanista, and Alianza por el Progreso (APP) parties and may yet include the Siempre Unidos party. The newly formed alliance will back Kuczynski in his bid for the presidency next year under the name Aliaza para el Gran Cambio and will constitute a centrist political party.
The announcement will add yet another candidate to the ballots for the upcoming April 2011 elections. Already vying for the presidency are Keiko Fujimori, the current front-runner and daughter of imprisoned former president Alberto Fujimori; Luis Castañeda, former mayor of Lima; Former finance minister Mercedes Aráoz; Former President Alejandro Toledo; and Ollanta Humala who very nearly won the presidential election in 2006.
Chief concerns for the upcoming presidency are likely to be sustaining economic growth and poverty reduction. With current economic estimates pointing to over 8 percent growth this year, the future president will be expected to continue policies that have made this possible including free trade, promoting foreign investments and fiscal discipline. And while poverty rates have decreased from 50 to 34 percent, small towns and communities continue to demand more benefits from the large infrastructure projects that have helped expand Peru’s economic capacity.
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.