On Peru's Election

Another week, another important election in Latin America. This time we turn towards Peru where former president (1985 – 1990), Alan García will lead his country once again after defeating controversial nationalist, Ollanta Humala. Both men are widely considered leftists, but in a region increasingly depicted as split between “pro-market socialism” and “nationalist populism,” Garcia's victory has been heralded as a boon to free-market supporters and a rejection of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’ regional, revolutionary aspirations.

But, apart from the international business community and political ideologues, what does Garcia's victory mean for Peruvians? How has his approach to governance changed since his leadership during the late 1980's, characterized by national bankruptcy and political ineptitude?

Jomra, like many, notes that while Garcia's second round vote tally nearly doubled that of the first round, it would be unwise to ignore the message underlined by Humala's popularity amongst Peru's poor.

Claro que Ollanta no es nada bueno, era una de las peores opciones en primera vuelta, aunque esta idea no la comparten unos 5 millones de peruanos, que han decidido confiar en el nacionalista Humala. El autoritarismo de Humala me asusta (insisto en esta idea, a mí las nacionalizaciones no me parecen, por sí mismas, negativas), es una persona que se cree el intérprete del espíritu nacional (esa es otra), y por ello, todo el que no esté de acuerdo con su idea de “nación” y de lo que la misma quiere es un enemigo de la misma. García, ya sea por sí o gracias al voto negativo, a conseguido (al 83.9% escrutado) superar el 50% de los votos emitidos y ha doblado y un poquito más su resultado en primera vuelta (donde no llegó a los 3 millones de votos).

Obviously Ollanta wasn't good; he was one of the worst options in the first round, even though some five million Peruvians who put their trust in the nationalist Humala don't share the belief. Humala's authoritarianism scares me (though I insist that, to me, nationalizations aren't inherently negative); he's a person who sees himself as the embodiment of the national spirit and everything that's not along his idea of “nation” and what he wants is an enemy.

Garcia, whether by his own effort or thanks to the negative votes against Humala, has attained more than 50% of the ballots cast and has more than doubled his first round results (where he didn't reach 3 million votes)

But Jomra goes on to remind readers that Garcia's party, APRA, has little presence in the congress and that they will have to form a limiting pact with either a leftist or rightist party to have any hope in pushing through legislative reform.

Spanish readers interested in play by play commentary from voting day would be well served to read the throughout-the-day coverage (ES) on Tinta Fantasma.

Flavio of Blog Title seems to speak for many of Peru's bloggers when he describes, in typical nihilistic irony, his moments in the voting booth:

Así voté yo. Abrí la cédula y ví, tristemente que sólo podía escoger entre dos opciones: O voto por Alan, o voto por la estrella del Apra. Por supuesto, como yo detesto a Alan, marqué la estrella del Apra, que me recuerda a la estrella que me ponían en la frente en el Nido. ¡Pan para el Pueblo! ¿Y quién es el pueblo? Los apristas, desde luego.

Mi madre marcó de otra manera. Vió el rostro de Alan y dijo: “Por este, ¡No!”. Acto seguido tachó agresivamente su rostro impreso.

Por otro lado, ¿Vieron la foto de Humala en la cédula? ¡Qué tal cara de loco perverso! En fin, ojalá esa foto le reste votos. Porque, y lo tengo que decir de una vez por todas, Ollanta está a otro nivel. Votar por Alan es pisar Caca (con C mayúscula), pero votar por Ollanta es bailar pogo sobre el tablero de control de una planta de energía nuclear.

This is how I voted. I opened the ballot and saw, sadly, that I could only choose between two options: vote for Alan Garcia or vote for his party. Of course, since I detest Alan, I marked the star that represents his APRA party, which reminded me of the star that they put on the front of my crib. Bread for the pueblo! And who is the pueblo? Those who vote for APRA of course.

My mother marked her ballot another way. She saw Alan's portrait and said, “For this guy, no!” Her next act: aggressively crossing out his printed face [thus voting for him]. Have you guys seen the photo of Humala on the other side of the ballot? What a face of a crazy pervert! All in all, hopefully that photo took away some votes. Because, and I have to say this once and for all, Ollanta is on a whole other level. Voting for Alan is stepping on Caca (with a capital C), but voting for Ollanta is like pogo-sticking on the control panel of a nuclear energy plant.

Rolly Valdivia adds his own analogy:

Para miles –quizás millones de peruanos- la segunda vuelta electoral entre García y el líder nacionalista Ollanta Humala Tasso, fue algo así como una elección entre el cáncer y el sida.

Ambos candidatos generaban desconfianza en amplios sectores de la población. García cargaba sobre sus hombres los desastrosos resultados de su primer gobierno (1985-1990); mientras que Humala, rápidamente se ganó la fama de antidemocrático, por su discurso incendiario y su “sospechosa” cercanía con el presidente venezolano Hugo Chávez Frías.

En conclusión había que elegir entre un pésimo ex presidente y un candidato con aparente perfil dictatorial; entonces, en muchos sectores se llegó a la conclusión de que un malo conocido pero con credenciales democráticas era mejor que un postulante de rasgos autoritarios (Humala es un ex comandante del ejército) y sin mayor pasado político.

For thousands – maybe millions of Peruvians – the second round of elections between Garcia and the nationalist leader Ollanta Humala, was something like an election between cancer and AIDS.

Both candidates inspired distrust in large sectors of the population. Garcia carried the disastrous results of his first governance (1985 – 1990); while Humala rapidly gained anti-democratic fame for his incendiary discourse and suspicious closeness to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

At the end, the choice was between the lousy ex-president and a candidate with an apparently dictatorial profile. And so, in many sectors, they came to the conclusion that a bad acquaintance (but with democratic credentials) was better than an unknown applicant with authoritarian characteristics (Humala is an ex-commander of the army) and without any greater political experience.

More information on the Peruvian elections in English can be found here and by following commentary on Journal Peru and Peru Election 2006.


  • […] Add another example to the collection of Peruvian election coverage on the theme of “the lesser of two evils”: Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » On Peru’s Election. […]

  • Carolina, Perú

    Te felicto David , escribes realmente como si fueras peruano y vivieras nuestra realidad. Concuerdo contigo en todo lo que dices, sobre todo en comparar a Garcia y Humala entre elegir cancer o SIDA.
    Sigue escribiendo así.

  • Yes, these elections were, as said by someone, a choice between Cancer and AIDS… the question remains, did we choose the lesser of both evils? It’s hard to say, as only time will tell. On July the 28th, Garcia comes into power, and this transition will be tense to say the least… Let’s just hope that everything goes on smoothly, and that the ruling party doesn’t hold enough power in Congress, so that things don’t rot… so that their members choose their votes out of reason, login, and the well-being of the nation…

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