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Right-Wing Politics Win Big in Peru's First Round of Presidential Elections

Peru Elections. Photo by Globovisión on Flickr. Used under CC licence 2.0

Peru Elections. Flickr photo by Globovisión. Used under CC 2.0 license.

This is an adapted version of the original post published on Juan Arellano’s blog Globalizado.

Peru’s presidential elections took place on April 10, 2016. With 10 candidates running, it was expected that no-one would win in the first round, and that controversial candidate Keiko Fujimori would take the highest number of votes.

It turned out that prediction was right on the money. The National Office of Electoral Procedures announced that the official count, with 99% of the ballots processed, gave Fujimori of the Fuerza Popular (Popular Force) party 39.81%, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski or “PPK” of the Peruanos por el Kambio (Peruvians for Change) party 21%, and Verónika Mendoza of the Frente Amplio (Broad Front) 18.83%.

As such, the second round, which will take place on Sunday, June 5, 2016, will be between Fujimori and Kuczynski. Both are in favour of maintaining the neoliberal economic model that has been in place in Peru since the government of former president Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a prison sentence for corruption and crimes against human rights.

Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of Alberto Fujimori, said in her first post-election statements that “this new political map tells us that Peru wants reconciliation, not more fighting”. She later thanked her supporters on her Facebook page.

¡Muy agradecida con el gran apoyo que nos han demostrado en las ánforas!
Reafirmo mi compromiso por un Perú unido, reconciliado y más justo.
‪#‎ElFuturoEstáEnMarcha‬

I’m very grateful for the great support that you have shown us in the ballot boxes!
I reaffirm my commitment to a Peru that is united, reconciled and fairer.
#TheFutureIsInMotion

Reactions from those on the right of the political spectrum have been elated. Erick Yonatan Flores Serrano expressed his joy at the defeat of the left on the blog Catarsis y Harakiri:

El rechazo al oscurantismo ideológico siempre es positivo. Solo esto me brinda el confort y la seguridad de que en el Perú, al menos por cinco años más, evitaremos el naufragio venezolano. Si bien es cierto, mejoras en materia de libertad individual y propiedad privada no habrán, tengo muy claro los resultados del socialismo. Es por eso que sigo celebrando. Y para terminar, no puedo dejar de decir que, el mismo hecho de ser libertario, siempre me deja en la condición de oposición, no importa si gobierna una derecha más tecnócrata o una derecha más política, a mí me da igual, el estatismo siempre es el problema, el Estado, el enemigo. Sin embargo, hoy sólo hay espacio para la tranquilidad, tendremos papel higiénico y comida, eso es importante. Un patada en el hocico del socialismo.

The rejection of ideological obscurantism is always positive. This only gives me comfort and security that in Peru, at least for five more years, we will avoid the Venezuelan shipwreck. Although it is true, there will be no improvements in individual liberties and private property, I am very clear on the results of socialism. It is because of that I am celebrating. And to finish, I cannot stop saying that it is the very fact of being libertarian which always leaves me in opposition, it does not matter if the government in power is more technocratic right-wing or more political right-wing, to me it is the same – statism is always the problem, the state, the enemy. Nevertheless, today there is only space for peace; we will have toilet paper and food, that is important. A punch in the nose to socialism.

While leftist candidate Verónika Mendoza, who proposed a change in economic model, did not reach the second round, her party scored victories in several departments of the country’s Andean south, where some of the poorest zones are. This vote, according to some analysts, shows this region’s discontent with the government in recent decades.

Now it's time to see which electoral strategies the candidates who passed to the second round will use. Although when it comes to economics, the differences are more of style than substance, there are various other matters that they can use to distinguish themselves.

Another aspect to consider is alliances that they could achieve to attract votes. A few weeks ago it was speculated that PPK was the only candidate who could beat Fujimori in the second round. He has two months to see if he can pull that off.

PPK is not a person who can count on the vote of progressives. He is accused of having favoured several foreign companies throughout his career as a civil servant, including as prime minister. What's more, Mercedez Araoz is on his ticket as candidate for vice president, which will also not help to gain points among indigenous people since she is seen as one of the politicians responsible for the Baguazo (a conflict in the zone of Bagua that left more than 40 dead).

La Mula blog platform wondered what PPK’s approach would be:

A PPK le toca un camino arduo, sobre todo en el sur, donde su rival electoral del Frente Amplio, Verónika Mendoza, tercera en los resultados generales, ganó en seis regiones […] En ese sentido, a Kuczynski le toca diseñar una nueva estrategia para vencer todas las resistencias que genera su candidatura en varias regiones claves del Perú. ¿Con quiénes estará dispuesto a hacer alianzas PPK? Así como Keiko Fujimori pretendió ‘caviarizarse’ en la Universidad de Harvard, ¿él hará lo mismo?

PPK faces a difficult path, especially in the south, where his electoral rival from the Frente Amplio, Verónika Mendoza, who came third in the general results, won in six regions […] In that sense, Kuczynski has to make a new strategy to overcome all the resistance generated by his candidacy in several key regions of Peru. Who will PPK be prepared to make alliances with? Just as Keiko Fujimori pretended to ‘refine’ herself at Harvard University, will he do the same?

As for the reasons for the large percentage of votes in favour of fujimorismo, one must take into account the high tolerance in Peru for corruption, perfectly exemplified in the popular phrase “roba pero hace obra“ (steal but get things done). Similarly, human rights are not a core issue for the average voter, who's more interested in the economy and not returning to the era of hyperinflation.

It is in this context that Keiko Fujimori’s campaign has resonated with sections of the population who on one hand remember her father’s government sympathetically, and on the other hand fear economic disaster, the return of terrorism (from 1980 to 2000 Shining Path and the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement launched violent attacks against the Peruvian state and people). Although the anti-Keiko movement managed to rally many people around the ongoing memory of the crimes of ex-President Fujimori and the possibility that history will repeat itself under a government of his daughter, this evidently has not been enough to diminish her popularity.

The Latin American Strategic Centre of Geopolitics (CELAG) analysed the electoral results in an article. In the section on fujimorismo, which they described as a “dividing factor” and “efficient right-wing populism”, they commented:

Quien lidera [Keiko Fujimori], parece tener una lectura muy clara, a pesar de las 6 denuncias por entrega de dádivas sustentadas con material audiovisual. Y ha logrado con éxito proyectar la cuestión de la inseguridad como el nuevo “otro” con quien establecer una remake de la cruzada que su padre establecería con Sendero Luminoso, llegando incluso a exterminar pueblos enteros. La inseguridad, el nuevo terrorismo. En su discurso, la candidata a la presidencia de Perú, Keiko Fujimori, pidió a los ciudadanos que se termine con las diferencias políticas y apuesta por la “reconciliación”, pero justamente su éxito radica en haber sabido canalizar el reclamo de la población que identifica a la inseguridad como su principal problema, y estaría dispuesto a consentir excesos siempre y cuando se aleje de sus antiguos fantasmas otrora guerrilleros, hoy delincuentes.

The leader [Keiko Fujimori] seems to have a very clear result, despite the six accusations against her, supported by audiovisual evidence, of handing out gifts. And she has successfully been able to frame the question of insecurity as the new “other” with which to establish a remake of her father’s crusade against Shining Path, which even included the extermination of entire villages. Insecurity, the new terrorism. In her discourse, Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori asked citizens to put an end to political differences and look to “reconciliation”, but her success is precisely based on knowing how to channel the grievances of a population that identifies insecurity as their main problem, and would be prepared to accept excesses provided that they move away from the old ghosts of former guerrillas, now criminals.

Peru is seeing a comeback of fujimorismo, since it will apparently also have a majority in Congress. Kenji Fujimori, the younger brother of Keiko, is the congressman with most votes, which could convert him into the president of the Congress. Some politicians have expressed their concern for the little space which would remain for opposition, not to mention the total control that the fujimoristas would be able to exercise.

Satirical site El Panfleto called this a great shame and stated that there is nothing to celebrate:

Si algunas políticas de Estado se vieron detenidas por la presencia del conservadurismo, ahora va a ser peor. Sin contar al resto de parlamentarios anclados en la hipocresía de las otras chinganas que quieren pasar como partidos, sólo el fujimorismo va a alcanzar a más de 60 curules. Así, de la mano de ellos es posible olvidarse de la legislación en materia de unión civil, de aborto en casos de violación, de la reforma al régimen laboral, de la reforma misma del Estado, de los cambios que requiere la normatividad electoral, tanto como la de partidos políticos, entre otras. Se vienen cinco años de oscuridad […] las calles serán más que necesarias para defender lo que nos corresponde. Tocará marchar, una y otra vez.

If some state politicians felt restricted by the influence of conservatism before, now it is going to be worse. Without counting the rest of the parliamentarians caught in the hypocrisy of the other outfits that want to pass as political parties, only fujimorismo is going to achieve more than 60 seats. As such, by their hand we may have to forget about legislation on civil unions, abortions in rape cases, reform of labour regulations, reform of the state itself, reforms needed in electoral regulations and those of parties, among others. Five years of darkness are coming […] and street action will be more than necessary to defend what belongs to us. We will need to march, time and time again.

For journalist, writer and regular Facebook user Gustavo Faverón, the future could be even worse:

La gente tiene una confusión con esto de votar por Kuczynski para que no salga Keiko Fujimori. El fujimorismo va a gobernar el Perú los próximos cinco años de todas maneras. Tendrá mayoría absoluta en el Congreso y, en caso de no tenerla, la conseguirá con solo comprarse uno o dos tránsfugas del partido de Acuña o cualquier otro hueco semejante. Si Keiko Fujimori gana la segunda vuelta, será el regreso de los 90. Si gana Kuczynski, necesitará los votos del fujimorismo en el Congreso. Aliarse con todos los demás no le dará mayoría; solo el fujimorismo le dará mayoría. Así que no solo Alberto Fujimori estará libre dentro de muy poco. Alberto Fujimori va a estar decidiendo el futuro del país en cualquier momento, ya sea a través de su hija o a través de su títere gigante.

People are confused over this idea of voting for Kuczynski so that Keiko Fujimori does not win. Fujimorismo is going to govern Peru over the next five years no matter what. It will have an absolute majority in Congress and, in case it does not, it will get it by simply buying one or two defectors from Acuña’s party [the Alliance for Progress] or some other. If Keiko Fujimori wins the second round, it will be a return to the 1990s. If Kuczynski wins, he will need the votes of fujimorismo in the Congress. Allying with all the rest would not give him a majority; only fujimorismo will give him a majority. In this way, not only will Alberto Fujimori be free very soon. Alberto Fujimori is going to be deciding the country’s future all the time, either through his daughter or his big puppet.

The previous comment seemed portentous, since after a few days Congresswoman Cecilia Chacón, member of Keiko Fujimori’s party and one of the most voted for in these elections, made statements in favour of freeing Alberto Fujimori, which has already generated reactions.

As we saw it coming in Peru… Grupo Colina [military death squad believed to be mandated by Alberto Fujimori] will be free again, that’s the Peru waiting for us!

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