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Peru: Municipal Elections, Delays and the Electronic Vote

After over three weeks since the municipal elections, the people of Lima are still not certain of who will be their next mayor. This delay in the ballot counting does look uncharacteristic of the age of the Internet, but even though the governmental body in charge, the ONPE [es] (National Office of Electoral Processes), had the electronic voting project developed for some time, there was no political will to make use of it until now, when after pressure by the media and the citizenship in general, the peruvian congress approved the law to implement gradually and progressively electronic voting. Just before the passage of the law journalist Juan Carlos Luján voiced his opinion:

Llama mucho la atención escuchar o leer declaraciones de políticos que casi poco o nada saben sobre la propuesta elaborada por la ONPE. Desde comienzos de año la ONPE experimenta con un sistema desarrollado íntegramente en el Perú con aportes de Innova PUCP y la Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. Tuve ocasión de verlo en funcionamiento y la verdad es que trae novedades que espero puedan apreciar bien aquellos que hablan a diestra y siniestra sobre un tema poco conocido -o mejor dicho- divulgado. Y ahí sí una critica constructiva a la ONPE. Debieron difundir ampliamente el tema entre quiénes tienen hoy el poder de decidir su aprobación.

It is remarkable to listen and read declarations from politicians that know very little or nothing about the proposal prepared by the ONPE. Since the start of the year the ONPE has been experimenting with a system developed in its entirety in Perú with the help of Innova PUCP and the National University of San Marcos. I had the opportunity to see it working and truly it does bring new features that I hope can be appreciated by those that talk left and right about a subject little known -or rather- divulged. Here we do have some constructive criticism for the ONPE. They should had widely spread the word about this subject to those who today have the power to decide its approval.

But going back to the subject of the elections, at the time of this writing it has been reported [es] that “with 96.484 percent of the ballots counted… the candidate… Susan Villarán, holds a 38.381 percent of the vote; and Lourdes Flores … 37.592 percent of the votes … the difference between both candidates is of 34 thousand 882 votes.” It is precisely this minimal difference between both candidates that has put the spotlight on electronic voting, since in previous cases when the vote difference has been clear and indisputable, the winner could be defined with mathematical certainty and the remaining votes and vote scrutiny did not matter that much, something that in this case is decisive.

This slow process has brought up all kinds of doubts, suspicions [es] and even accusations of attempt to commit fraud [es] mainly by supporters of Fuerza Social, the party of Susana Villarán, which besides narrow margins, has maintained the lead throughout the whole process. On Monday Villarán headed an encampment [es] in front of the National Jury of Elections (JNE) to “defend the votes of all the people of Lima” and “so the delay in the delivery of electoral results does not repeat itself in the general elections of April 2011″. This was rejected by the people of Lourdes Flores, her opponent, who said that [es] “just like before when fear was brought to the population by terrorist practices, Susan Villarán pretends to do this on the electoral system”. It must be pointed out that Villarán's association with extreme left groups was something used quite a bit during the campaign.

A sub product of this electoral process was the campaign denominated “Adopt a Ballot [es]” which appeared a few days before the elections because of the fear of Villarán's people of not being able to absorb the costs of appealing the resolution (S/53.00 or US $18.97 each) of the more than 8300 voting ballots that were under the possession of the Special Electoral Juries of the JNE. The idea was that members of the party and sympathizers would collaborate on the appeals costs of one or more ballots. But the idea did not bring much results and it does not look like it will be necessary to appeal many ballots either. However, bloggers like economist Silvio Rendón of the Gran Combo Club believe [es] there is nothing sure about the electoral results:

En Lima: tendencias en el escrutinio [ES] señalé que “La tendencia es a la convergencia entre los porcentajes de las dos candidatas” y, en base a una extrapolación lineal, señalé también que Flores iba camino a alcanzar a Villarán. … Que Flores pase y gane a Villarán puede ciertamente no ser el resultado final pues, efectivamente, faltan las actas de las zonas en que gana Villarán, pero sí que tiene un significado político y psicológico nada desdeñable. Lourdes Flores incluso perdiendo la alcaldía sale reivindicada y fortalecida de una elección ajustada.

In Lima: scrutiny tendencies [es] I pointed out that “the tendency is towards the convergence of the percentages between both candidates” and, based in a linear extrapolation, I pointed out too that Flores was headed towards catching up with Villarán. … That Flores passes and defeats Villarán could very well not be the final result as, effectively, the ballots from the areas that Villarán wins still remain, but it does have a political and psychological impact that can not be discarded. Even losing the mayoralty Lourdes Flores comes out of this vindicated and strengthened from a close election.

However, not everyone believes the same, for example blogger Troba from Trobando Voy among other things writes [es] that:

En Perú, cuando los dueños de la pelota pierden las elecciones, éstos se olvidan de sus fingidos modales democráticos y se les sale el corazoncito facho y gamonal: ensucian el conteo, demoran el proceso, manipulan a su antojo las cifras, dinamitan la esperanza y la legítima celebración de los demonizados de siempre, que se ganaron el triunfo a base de sudor, unidad y esfuerzo … Es que nunca la vieron venir. Ni en sus peores pesadillas soñaron perder Lima, su otrora irreductible bastión. Mucho menos frente a una Alianza de Izquierdas, siempre satanizados o tildados de rojos, violentistas, retrógrados. La eterna candidata de los ricos y de los narcos ha tenido su más dolorosa derrota, pese a las absurdas explicaciones de “expertos” para parecerla triunfadora, o perdedora por un estrecho margen: perder una elección donde llegó a tener 30 puntos de ventaja, faltando 3 meses, es una derrota inobjetable.

In Perú, when the incumbents lose elections, they forget their pretended democratic manners: they tamper with the balloting, delay the process, manipulate the numbers at their pleasure, they dynamite the hope and legitimate celebrations of the usually bedeviled, who earned their triumph by merit of their own sweat, unity and effort… They never saw it coming. Not even in their worst nightmares they dreamt of losing Lima, their once unyielding bastion. Much less to a Leftist Alliance, always demonized or referred to as reds, violent and retrograde. The eternal candidate of the rich and the narcos have had their most painful defeat, despite the absurd explanation of “experts” to maker her look triumphant, or loser by a slim margin: to lose an election where she held a 30 point advantage, with 3 months remaining, is an indisputable defeat.

Meanwhile, the government's official spokesmen asked [es] the candidates waiting for the official results to remain clam; the results could be ready Tuesday or during the week, and they said that the electoral procedures could be expedited [es] for next year's presidential elections. Some bloggers are circulating information [es] about possible members for the council of municipalities and others already speculate [es] about the possible alliances and political accommodations that will take place before the presidential elections, which by what has been seen so far, will be tightly contested, and why not say it, dirty.

Update 10/27: The Peruvian Times reports that, “More than three weeks after residents in Lima went to the polls to elect a new mayor, conservative candidate Lourdes Flores has conceded to Susana Villarán of the leftist Social Force party.” La República [es] uploaded a video where Flores admits her defeat.

Original post published on October 25 in Globalizado [es]. Small image from flickr user Jonathan Ziapour, used under the Creative Commons — Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence.

1 comment

  • […] about the mayorship”  Flores. There is new focus now on electronic voting machines in Peru. Here is a new media look at what is going […]

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