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Peru: Two Women Contend to Become Mayor of Lima

On Sunday October 3 the regional and municipal elections [es] will be held in Peru, including a referendum to decide whether to return the money invested between 1979 and 1998 by workers who had their salaries discounted by the FONAVI (National Housing Fund). On Thursday September 30 most campaign closing [es] rallies were held. And since Friday the country is under the so-called “Dry Law,” prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages and the enacting of other measures, in order to guarantee the execution of these elections.

Though there are about 10 candidates [es] (9 on the race and 1 ineligible) for Mayor of Lima, the capital, it is two ladies (Lourdes Flores Nano and Susana Villarán De la Puente) who have the highest possibilities to win. Because of their party affiliation, Lourdes (from right-wing Christian People's Party, PPC) introduces herself as the one who will continue the work of the incumbent Mayor, Luis Castañeda, while Susana represents a left-wing option, sometimes referred to as —in a derogatory manner— “caviar left”. The campaign has been tough and even though Ms Flores led the polls for a while, after candidate Alex Kouri was disqualified, Susana Villarán's options started to boost until reaching the first place [es] a couple of weeks ago.

At that moment the campaign became heated, with the spreading of illegally recorded audio [es] and accusations [es] from both sides. This, despite having captured the front pages of the media during a few days, has not actually contributed to a serious debate where plans for the development of the city are the most important issue. On the other hand, this has been one of the most ideologically politicized elections in Lima's recent history. Regarding this, journalist Edgardo de Noriega writes on his blog Miscelánea [es]:

Hay un hecho para el futuro que es evidente. Un triunfo de Susana Villaràn la convierte en una lideresa de una corriente progresista que significaría una opción de gobierno importante. Lo que precisamente en este momento no existe. El pensamiento de izquierda con caudal electoral importante. … Lo que se plantearía es una izquierda democrática que cree en la empresa privada y en la economía de mercado con visos sociales. Lo que representa el Presidente Lula en Brasil y Michelle Bachelet en Chile.

There is a fact for the future which is evident. A Susana Villarán's victory will make her a [female] leader of a progressive trend which might become an important option of government. Which is exactly what does not exist right now. A left-wing thought with an important electoral support… What it might be considered is a democratic left which believes in private business and market economy with social overtones. What President Lula in Brazil and [former President] Michelle Bachelet in Chile represent.

On Monday September 27 a televised debate among these two female candidates was held. There were huge expectations and though it was a chance to hear general guidelines for their plans for the municipal government, there were also accusations [es], specially from Lourdes to Susana, who avoided responding directly. This caused that, for example, Juan Sheput from Mate Pastor considered [es] Ms Flores as the winner of the debate:

Lourdes, desde el primer minuto, mostró sus cartas. Eligió su estrategia potenciando su fortaleza, la experiencia parlamentaria. Jugaba también a su favor el hecho de no tener nada que perder. Y Susana parece que optó por la vieja técnica del bambú, la de ser flexible ante la tormenta. Pero eso no funciona en un debate, donde no sólo se confrontan propuestas sino se mide el temperamento de los adversarios. … El debate lo ganó Lourdes, de lejos. Habrá que ver si le permite ganar la elección.

Lourdes, since the very first minute, showed her cards. She chose her strategy by empowering her strength, her experience in Congress. It was also on her favor that she had nothing to lose. And it seems that Susana decided the old bamboo technique, being flexible in front of the storm. But that doesn't work on a debate, where not only proposals are confronted, but also the temperament of the foes is measured… The debate was won, by far, by Lourdes. We would have to see if that allows her to win the election.

Silvio Rendón from the blog Gran Combo Club tries to analyze [es] the causes of this difference in attitudes, clearly visible during the debate:

Lourdes Flores fue a atacar y Susana Villarán fue a defender. La agresividad de Flores y la bonhomía de Villarán no son condiciones existenciales ni una cosa de principio para ninguna de las dos candidatas, sino que responden a sus diagnósticos y estrategias sobre cómo ganar la elección. Cuando Villarán estaba en 2% de intención de voto comenzó atacando con las declaraciones juradas y Cataño, aquí. … Ahora que tendría 42% de intención de voto un ataque de este tipo, según la otrora atacante, sería ilegítimo. ¿Y si no tuviera 42%? Seguramente ahí la veríamos atacando, respondiendo; en otra actitud. Lo mismo a Flores.

Lourdes Flores attacked and Susana Villarán defended. Flores's aggressiveness and Villarán's kindness are not existential conditions nor principles for either of the two candidates, but they responded to their diagnosis and strategies about how to win the election. When Villarán was supported by 2% of the electors at the polls she attacked with [Flores's] sworn declarations and [her links to businessman César] Cataño's [case] here [es]. Now that apparently she has 42% of the voting intentions such attack, according to the former attacker, would be illegitimate. And what if she didn't have 42%? We'd see her attacking, answering, for sure; with another attitude. The same goes for Flores.

Then he evaluates what each candidate represents, and how this influences voters who don't have a candidate for their own parties or who are undecided:

En el debate se vio a una Lourdes Flores macartista, conservadora, hablando de orden, anti-sindicalismo, anti-estatismo, etc. Valores de las derechas. A Villarán, que evalúa que ya tiene el voto de izquierdas, se la vio generalista, inclusiva, buscando el centro político. Para el votante fujimorista, por ejemplo, creo que Flores será definitivamente la más atractiva. … Para el votante aprista, mitad y mitad. La mitad conservadora del Apra le irá a Flores, la mitad progre a Villarán … En general, creo que con este debate, Flores impacta relativamente más que Villarán sobre el voto a los candidatos pequeños y en los indecisos.

In the debate we saw a McCarthyist, conservative Lourdes Flores, speaking about order, anti-unionism, anti-statism, etc. Right-wing values. Villarán, who believes she's already got the left-wing vote, was seen quite generalist, inclusive, looking for for the political center. For the supporter of [former president Alberto] Fujimori, for example, I think Flores is definitively the most attractive option… for the APRA sympathizer, 50-50. APRA's conservative half will support Flores, the lefty one will go for Villarán… In general, I think that with this debate, Flores would make a relatively higher impact than Villarán over the vote for minor candidates and the undecided.

Of course, for those who have already decided on their vote or possess stubborn sympathies, the result of the debate is not a big influence. Justo Pachari from the blog La verdad con toda el alma picks up in one of his posts [es] the comment of a user [es] of newspaper La República‘s online forum:

Lourdes es una política vieja, escucharla es como escuchar los argumentos de García o de cualquier otro político con mañas y defendiendose con argumentos que no son más que calunmias. Yo creo que si eso es lo que se evalúa ganó Lourdes, pero como en realidad yo y muchas personas queremos un cambio, y justamente un cambio del tipo de políticos que tenemos, en realidad Lourdes perdío, para mí es lo mismo que otros políticos corruptos, a pesar de que no iba a votar por ella la respetaba, pero realmente lo único que generó es que YO al igual que mucha gente reafirmaramos nuestro compromiso por el cambio, cambio que para nosotros es Susana Villarán

Lourdes is an old politician, listening to her is like listening the arguments of [president Alan] García or any other sly politician, and defending herself with arguments which are no other thing than slanders. I think that if that's what's being evaluated Lourdes won, but since actually I and a lot of other people want a change, and precisely a change in the kind of politicians we have, in fact Lourdes lost, as for me she's the same as other corrupt politicians, though I wasn't going to vote for her I used to respect her, but actually the only thing she caused is that *I*, as well as many other people, reassert my commitment with change, change that for us is [represented by] Susana Villarán

On the other hand, regarding the participation of both candidates in a variety/contest show at the local TV station (see video [es]), Isabel Guerra from Las Burbujas Recargadas wonders [es]:

Si en vez de candidatAS tuviéramos a dos HOMBRES encabezando las preferencias de los votantes, ¿los habrían invitado a hacer el ridículo en esa cosa tan parecida a la “noche de talentos” de concurso de belleza? Tanto discurso proequidad de género y de estas cosas por las que se hace pasar a las candidatas (con el pretexto del show de beneficencia) nadie dice nada.

If instead of FEMALE candidates we'd have two MEN heading the voter polls, would they have been invited to make fools of themselves in that stuff so similar to a beauty pageant “talent show”? After all that discourse on gender equality and about those things some people make the candidates [Lourdes and Susana] go through (with the “charity show” excuse) no one says a thing.

As you might imagine campaigns have entered the Internet with some strength but it has not become their main place. The Facebook page [es] of Fuerza Social [Social Force, es], the party supporting Susana Villarán, has 2485 fans at the time of writing this post (we should note that the party's website has not been updated since September 9), while Ms Villarán personal Facebook profile [es] shows 4783 ‘friends’ (we assume that is due to the Facebook restriction which does not allow more than 5000 ‘friends’) and her website [es] does look updated. Lourdes Flores's official Facebook page [es] has 8567 fans, while [right-wing coalition] Unidad Nacional's [National Unity, es] Facebook page [es] created for the elections has 1627 fans. The PPC website [es] (Ms Flores's party, which naturally is part of the National Unity) does not include much information and redirects to Lourdes Flores website [es], which does include more data and links to other sites. It is worth mentioning that some days ago the PPC website was hacked [es] by Villarán sympathizers, which might explain its current plain status.

Several state and private institutions have been launching initiatives [es] for citizens to vote in a more informed way about the candidates and their government plans. Finally, in an anecdotal note, while it is almost certain that the next Mayor of Lima will be a woman, she will not be the first one, because Anita Fernandini de Naranjo held this office from 1963 to 1964.

The thumbnail used for this post belongs to user Chimi Fotos on Flickr and is used under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence.

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