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Peru: NO Vote Straddles Victory and Defeat in Lima's Recall Election

[All links are to Spanish-language pages except where noted.]

According to exit polling, the preliminary results [en] of the March 17 recall election [en] gave supporters of Mayoress Susana Villarán a narrow victory. However, pollsters soon began to offer up the first concrete figures, performing a quick count of actual ballots yet to be processed. It didn't take long for the NO crowd to feel the first drops of rain on their parade.

With the outcome now fully and officially tallied, the trend continues: 20 councillors will be recalled, which means complementary elections will have to be held next November in order to fill their seats. In the meantime, interim councillors will assume their responsibilities. But this process could be delayed in the event of any challenge to the official results of the recall vote. 

Initial media gloating soon dwindled, and even now social networks are ahead of the mainstream in analyzing and elucidating the reasons why Lima's electorate voted the way it did. The answer is hard to find, perhaps because the outcome is the product of a number of factors, such as the confluence of feelings and decisions among different social groups and circumstantial elements like the particular format of the ballot—there may even have been some lassitude on the part of voters faced with having to tick off the names of 40 different candidates.

Municipalidad de Lima. Foto de usuario de Flickr CHIMI FOTOS, bajo licencia Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Lima City Hall. Photo by Flickr user CHIMI FOTOS, under license by Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Moreover there is no getting around the potential repercussions of former Prime Minister Pedro Pablo Kuzczynski's announcement that he would vote NO to recalling Mayoress Villarán but would vote YES with respect to some councillors at Lima's city hall whom he considers anti-mining.

The economist Silvio Rendón speculates, on the Facebook page Gran Combo Club, on how what he calls a cross-over effect actually came about. As an example, he cites the vote in Lima's Comas district:

En Comas, por ejemplo, gana el SI en alcaldesa y todos los regidores, pero el margen es mucho menor en alcaldesa. A partir de los regidores de izquierda aumenta sustancialmente el número de votos en blanco, de manera que el margen por el que gana en SI en regidores de izquierda aumenta.
En suma, el voto en blanco en regidores en este distrito perjudica a los de LA izquierda y beneficia a los de LA derecha. A pesar de que gana el SI en todo, las diferencias son mayores en regidores de LA izquierda que en los de LA derecha y en alcaldesa.
(Aquí “izquierda” y “derecha” más que posición ideológica significan posición en la cédula).

In Comas, for example, the YES vote won for the Mayoress and all the councillors, but the margin was much lower for the Mayoress. For councillors on the Left, the number of blank ballots increases substantially, such that the margin for the YES vote among councillors on the Left also increased.
To sum up, blank ballots for councillors in this district damaged those on the left and benefited those on the right. Despite the fact that the YES won overall, the difference was greater for councillors on the left than those on the right and for the Mayoress. (Here the terms “right” and “left” have less to do with ideological orientation than their physical location on the ballot.)

Many attribute the vote against the councillors of Fuerza Social, Mayoress Villarán's political party, to the support of Lourdes Flores, leader of the Christian People's Party (PPC) [en]. In fact her support was one of the decisive factors in overturning the recall of the Mayoress, but is there a deeper political calculation behind the endorsement?

Journalist Isabel Guerra comments on her Facebook page:

no crean que estoy contenta. Me gustaría ver en mi país una izquierda pensante, genuinamente progresista, formadora de conciencias políticas, y también una derecha semillero de intelectuales/teóricos de peso, y que puedan todos generar planteamientos sólidos, aportar a su país cada uno desde su trinchera, que puedan debatir una tendencia con la otra y contrapesarse. Pero no, no tenemos ni uno ni lo otro. Lo que veo es un montón de oportunistas clientelistas (de uno u otro signo) vendiéndose al mejor postor y tratando de comprar las conciencias de los potenciales votantes.

Don't assume I am pleased. I would like to see a thoughtful Left in my country, genuinely progressive, that fosters political awareness as well as a Right that is the breeding ground for commanding intellectuals/theorists, who could all generate solid approaches, bringing their experience in the trenches to bear for their country, who could debate positions and balance each other out. But no, we have neither. What I see is a bunch of opportunists (of one ilk or another) selling themselves to the highest bidder and trying to buy the will of potential voters.

Isabel continues:

¿Es de sorprender que el ciudadano de a pie no ya no confíe para nada en nuestra(s) clase(s) política(s)? Menos mal que mi Perú está empezando a despertar y a darse cuenta de que nos merecemos algo mejor que esto, que los caudillismos no pueden conducir a nada bueno a la larga. La educación jugará un rol muy importante para nuestro progreso como país, al igual que la creciente conciencia de que podemos expresar nuestra voluntad con nuestros votos y fiscalizar de distintas formas a nuestras autoridades…

Is it surprising that the ordinary citizen no longer trusts our political class(es)? It is a good thing my Peru is starting to wake up and realize that we deserve better than this, that in the long run strongman politics lead to no good. Education will play a very important role in the future of our country, just as the growing awareness that we an express our will through our votes and monitor the authorities in different ways…

Another hot topic is the participation of the political activist and publicist Luis Favre (Argentine-born Felipe Belisario Wermus now living in Brazil). His efforts on behalf of the NO campaign effectively saved the Mayoress, but apparently he did not take into account the councillors. In fact his campaign was orchestrated around the involvement of well-known personalities and did not include a few councillors until late in the game. The slogan “40 times NO” that urged a NO vote for all councillors apparently was not welcomed by NO supporters, something that definitely influenced the recall of almost all councillors.

Facebook user Inmovil viajero has already made an overall—if preliminary—assessment of what this electoral process has wrought and comments:

Estoy en duda, no si si es casualidad, sabiduria popular, conciencia colectiva o que, pero me quedan claro algunos puntos:

1. el voto fue para respaldar la institucionalidad no a SV [Susana Villarán],
2. hay un castigo claro a la gestion de SV y los pagantes han sido sus regidores,
3. LCL [Luis Castañeda], el alcalde anterior], ha perdido piso y posibilidades futuras, la revocatoria a su hijo es una llamada de atención y su regreso al cargo de Alcalde una incertidumbre,
4. el [partido político] APRA calculó mal, y es un claro derrotado,
5. a la gente si le importa el comportamiento definido como “anti-todo”, hay un castigo hacia Patria Roja [Partido Comunista del Perú], Sutep [sindicato de maestros], TyL [Tierra y Libertad] y demas; no están siendo respaldados, sea por miedo o por conviccion,
6. la izquiera en general a salido maltratada, han perdido piso y claramente no se los ve como gestores eficientes ni canalizadores de los ideales del “pueblo”,
7. el PPC [Partido Popular Cristiano] ha salido fortalecido, como partido democratico, pero no le alcanzará para ganar una presidencial, no tienen ese arraigo y no tienen ese efecto,
8. igual la izquierda los traicionará llegado el momento,
9. Keiko [Fujimori] jugó bien al dejar libre a sus electores, no se metio en este pleito, creo que la tuvo mas clara,
10. la felicidad y soberbia inicial dieron paso al desconcierto y luego a la agresividad moralistoide tan recurrente en el grupo del NO; nuevamente los votantes son unos ineptos, brutos y desconectados; nuevamente los únicos inteligentes son los q pertenecen a esa opción, me queda dibujado de manera diáfana que no les está llegando el mensaje, no han entendido lo que les ha pasado.

I have my doubts; I don't know whether it is luck, popular wisdom, collective consciousness or what, but a few things are clear to me.

1. the vote was to endorse institutions, not SV [Susana Villarán];
2. there is a clear indictment of SV's management and the price was paid by her councillors;
3. LCL [Luis Castañeda [en], the former mayor], has lost ground and future capital, the recall of his son is a wake-up call, and his return to the position of mayor is in doubt;
4. the [political party] [en] APRA miscalculated badly; and were routed;
5. people do care about behaviour defined as ‘anti-everything’, there is a penalty for Patria Roja [Partido Comunista del Perú] [en], the teachers’ union Sutep [sindicato de maestros], the leftist Land and Freedom party [Tierra y Libertad], and others; they are not getting support, whether through fear or conviction;
6. the Left in general took a beating, they have lost ground and clearly they are not perceived as efficient managers nor conveyors of the ideals of the ‘people';
7. the PPC [Partido Popular Cristiano] [en] has come out stronger, as a democratic party, but they won't win the presidential election, neither their support nor their message is deep-rooted enough,
8. and the Left might just betray them if the occasion arises;
9. Keiko [Fujimori] [en] played well, leaving the electors free to choose, she didn't get her hands dirty, I think she understood the game;
10. initial satisfaction and smugness gave way to confusion and then to aggressive moralizing so common among NO supporters; all of a sudden voters are inept, brutish, disconnected; all of a sudden the only smart people are those who supported that choice, it is obvious to me that the message is not getting through, they have not understood what happened to them.

Post published in Globalizado, Juan Arellano's blog.

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