Saturday, 16 April 2011

“A choice between having cancer and AIDS” : Mario Vargas Llosa

The Peruvian Presidential Election 2011

On Sunday 10 April 2011 Peruvians went to the polls to elect their new president. If no candidate receives 50% of the vote a second round of voting involving the top two candidates will take place on Sunday June 5th. Under the Peruvian constitution current President Alan Garcia is prohibited from seeking successive re-election.

With about 93% of the vote counted (the final results won’t be known for a few days due to the logistics of counting votes from the Atacama desert across the Andes to the Amazon basin) the results are:

1. Ollanta Humala Gana Perú* (Populist Left) 31.7%

2. Keiko Fujimori Fuerza 2011 (Populist Right) 23.5%

3. Pedro Pablo Fuczynski (PPK) Alianza por el Gran Cambio (Centre Right) 18.7%

4. Alejandro Toledo Perú Posible (Centre Left) 15.5%

5. Luis Castaneda Solidaridad Nacional (Right) 9.9%

* The party labels used are an umbrella term for a coalition of parties eg Gana Perú is made up of the (Partido Nacionalista Peruano), the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista), the Peruvian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Peruano), the Revolutionary Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Revolucionario) and the Political Movement Socialist Voice (Movimiento Político Voz Socialista).

It is clear therefore that the second round runoff election will be between Humala and Fujimori. This should be interesting to say the least – Humala came to prominence in October 2000 when as a then Lieutenant Colonel he led a military uprising against the President Alberto Fujimori – the imprisioned father of Keiko. To say that there is bad blood between the two would put it mildly!!

In the 2006 election Humala recieved 30.6% of the first round vote before losing in the second round to Alan Garcia gaining 47.4%. The slight improvement in his vote and the divsions amongst his opponents lead me to believe that Humala will win the second round.

Looking at a breakdown of the vote we can see where the election was won and lost. Of the top three Humala succeeded by winning big in his heartland of southern Andean Peru stacking up 55-60% of the vote in Cusco and Puno for example and a massive 86% in Moquequa, whilst ensuring a steady spread across the rest of Peru. Fujimori was the most consistant candidate gaining 18-27% pretty much everywhere and leading in the Lima exterior and Ica regions of central Peru. PPK´s support was limited vitally entirely to Lima and essentially the upscale districts of San Isidro, Miraflores, La Molina etc. Outside this heartland his performance was dire. This upscale vote can be expected to swing behind (reluctantly) Fujimori. The second round battle will be decided in, what I call “middle Peru” – the forgotten, dusty towns like Ancash, Iquitos and Cajamarca.

An analysis of the campaign

With his second place in 2006, high profile and populist credentials it was certain that Humala would stand. Demonised as a Peruvian Hugo Chavez, who would kick all gringos out of the country, steal your pension and nationise the Banks thus destroying Peru´s booming economy, Humala played a very savvy, understated campaign. Allowing the others to exaggerate and caricature him as an extremist he maintained centre stage whist appearing calm and collect. This culminated in the final and most watch TV debate held on the preceding Sunday 3rd April at the Sheraton Hotel. In this debate he calmly avoided answering any questions and behaved in a calm almost boring manner. This had the desired effect. It made opposition claims that he was some kind of baby eating Gaddifi / Chavez love-child seem absurd, calmed fears and resulted in a stunning surge in the opinion polls. From being in the high teens and low twenties at the end of March in the days following the debate he hit the 30% becoming the clear front-runner. He has managed to maintain this calm and mild exterior through-out the campaign until the last minute of his post-election address outside the hotel Sonesta El Olivar in San Isidro where he couldn´t resist climaxing with a few viva socialism chants – whilst not quite in the league of Kinnock at the Sheffield Rally in 1992 if I was his opponent I would be using that over and over against him.

Keiko Fujimori ran the most impressive campaign. A Congresswoman since 2006 she broke through achieving national prominence during the trial of her controversial father and formal president Alberto Fujimori. His imprisonment for the maximum 25 years for human rights abuses, corruption and bribery was the foundation for her Fuerza 2011 campaign. The most well organised campaign though, perhaps, least impressive candidate she was the first to actively campaign. This was well rewarded with a pretty consistent 20-25% across most of Peru. Will she be able to achieve 50% plus? This I doubt. The left and centre-left will not forgive her father for his abuse of power, human rights abuses and the Grupo Colina death squad responsible for the murders of many.

Without doubt the most charming of candidates was Pedro Pablo Fuczynski. A former Prime Minister and co-Chairman of the First Boston bank he was the darling of the Lima elite. Yet in spite what the establishment felt was his qualifications for the job he was a lacklustre candidate. Outside Lima city he vote share was pitiful and his campaign can best be encapsulated in a moment of utter farce. Walking through the shanty towns of Lima he was regular accosted by locals, apparently as a result of local superstition about white people, wanting to touch his genitals!! While he smiled and “handled” the situation genially it nevertheless was illustrative of how different and out of touch he appeared to most Peruvians.

As for the other candidates: Alejandro Toledo, convinced that his name-recognition as a previous president and early poll leads would see him to victory led a lazy and moribund campaign which only came to life in the last days; Luis Castaneda, former mayor of Lima, had perhaps the worse campaign imaginable going from 75% approval ratings and first position to fifth less than 10% of the vote.

Anyway I hope you find this all an interesting diversion and if you have any questions please feel free to ask or email.

Macchu Picchu


Nick Palmer said...

Really interesting piece, thanks! A serious and an unserious question:

- What do you think Humala and Fujimori would be like if elected?

- Why didn't the other candidates have the "genital" problem when campaigning?

Morris Dancer said...

Very interesting article, Mr. Picchu.

What's the state of Peru? Is it, like Brazil, powering ahead economically, and how politically engaged are most Peruvians?

Macchu Picchu said...

Thank you both.

To answer your questions:

1. That is the great unknown.

Humala is one with many rumours most of which are clearly rubbish but believed - an example doing the rounds in elite circles today was he has proposed "the nationalisation of children" - I kid you not - that after the age of 3 all children will become state property. Thats clearly nonsense - but is believed.

The concern with both is that they will break the constitution for their own ends. The constitution here is very fragile and it was only 10 of so years ago the daddy Fujimori put tanks in front of congress and dissolved both it and the constitution. I would expect both to push the limits but would be suppressed if they succeed. Both need to compromise in order to form a coalition and my guess is Humala with form an alliance with Toledo and act as a Lula character - though he will probably seek to change the constitution allowing him to run again in 2016.

2 PPK was the only candidate with dual citizenship - he is a US citizen too - Toledo in the debates hammered him on this always referring to him as "Mister PPK" emphasising his difference. He is also white unlike the others. In a country as ethnically divided as Peru, where the rich "white" elite dominate - he was always a candidate who would not appeal beyond his class. A blinkered elite who could never see that. That shows how out of touch with ordinary Peruvians they had become - its why the centre lost.

3. The Peruvian economy is booming - 10% last year - it has been one of the best places to invest for the last five years. The result though has been increasingly obvious income inequality - the rich have got much richer - areas like San Isidro and Miraflores and are almost first world now - yet life in the shanty towns has basically remained the same. The current government of Alan Garcia has done well with its poverty reduction programme and the provision of clean water. For most the growth has passed them by - and example - every winter in the Southern Andean regions of Peru many die of cold - not just a few but thousands. That reveals the inequality and is the shame of Peru - no coincidence it is also the area of Humala's strongest support.

4. Most Peruvians regard the government and politics as something that is done to them rather than controlled by them - the results of hundreds of years of conquest by Inca's, Spanish, genocide and dictatorship. Plus the concept of "peruvian" is somewhat artificial - the different between Lima, Lima elites, desert folk, mountain people and the jungle tribes is immense. Each there fractures and looks to their own sectional group. It's a shame.

I hope that helps and thank you for the interest.

Any more questions please ask.

Anonymous said...

An example of how crazy things are in Peru right now:

An English history teacher gets arrested for a red flag...

tawny said...

Thank you. That was very interesting I knew little about Peru and its politics and now I have a handle on the background to the elections.