Make Peru poll a ‘referendum on return to Fujimorismo’



Peruvian markets jumped on Monday as results showed two free-market candidates would move on to the second round of a presidential election: Keiko Fujimori, the conservative daughter of a jailed former president, and centrist economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Reuters reports:

With two-thirds of votes counted, Fujimori had 39.46 percent support while Kuczynski, 77, a former World Bank economist widely known by his initials ‘PPK’, had 23.73 percent and nationalist Veronika Mendoza trailed with 17.12 percent…. Human rights activists remain wary, and protests on April 5, 24 years after Alberto Fujimori dissolved Congress, drew tens of thousands of Peruvians.

An Ipsos opinion poll afterward showed Fujimori would probably lose to Kuczynski by seven points if they faced each other in a run-off. Fujimori’s rejection rates also jumped, with 51 percent of Peruvians saying they would “definitely not” vote for her.

“If Kuczynski’s able to make this all about a return to authoritarianism and corruption, a referendum on a return to Fujimorismo, he will win,” said Steven Levitsky, a political scientist at Harvard University. “Keiko has to make the debate about Lima versus the interior, and throw a dose of populism into the race.”

Ms. Fujimori recently signed a pledge to respect human rights and freedom of the press, an unusual move meant to signal to voters that she would not repeat her father’s authoritarianism, The New York Times adds.

“If anything, the election is more polarized this year,” said Cynthia McClintock, a political scientist specializing in Peru at George Washington University. “Keiko Fujimori has a long way to go.”

Sunday’s elections provided notable defeats for traditional politicians, AP adds:

Two former presidents, Alejandro Toledo and Alan Garcia, finished near the bottom of the 10-candidate field, while the congressional slate for Garcia’s almost century-old APRA party barely got by the minimum 5 percent threshold to hold onto its legal standing.

Adding bitterness to the race, two candidates, including Fujimori’s strongest rival, were barred from the race by Peru’s electoral tribunal for campaign violations or technicalities, decisions questioned by the Organization of American States.

Levitsky, an expert on Peruvian politics [and a regular contributor to the National Endowment for Democracy’s Journal of Democracy], spoke with AS/COA Online’s Holly Sonneland about Sunday’s vote, the candidates, and a race overshadowed by candidate disqualifications.

“When you unfairly remove candidates from the race and unfairly restrict competition, the result is an election that is less democratic,” says Levitsky.

All the discussion and energy devoted to the disqualifications has detracted from the democracy of the race, says Levitsky. “If you picked up a newspaper in late March and read the political section, eight out of 10 articles would be about the possible, pending exclusion of a candidate,” he says. “People were running around basically either defending themselves or making the case that other candidates should be excluded from the race—which is just a terribly undemocratic place to be because elections are about maximizing competition.”

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