Polarised

Peru's presidential run-off polarised into hard left vs hard right.

If you thought what happened in Ecuador on Sunday was surprising, just wait until you hear about what happened over the weekend in Peru!

On Sunday, Peru went to the polls for the first round of the presidential elections amid a surging second wave of COVID-19 infections and an economic crisis. The country is now facing a choice between the hard-left or the hard-right and regardless, it will continue with a highly fragmented Congress.

The far-left candidate, Pedro Castillo emerged as the winner of the first round vote with around 18%. This is far below the level needed for an outright win and half the usual first round winners vote of around 30%. Castillo will face conservative Keiko Fujimori in the June run-off.

Castillo, a hard-left school teacher and union leader, was relatively unknown before Sunday’s first round vote. The activist, who supports an agenda of nationalisations and wants to re-write the Constitution, didn’t even make the top six in mid-March opinion polls, registering just 3%. However, Castillo seems to have won over the poor and working classes who have had enough of the political class, economic ruin and a mismanaged pandemic response.

So where did this guy come from? One presidential candidate told us, “Castillo is not alone. I think he has had support from the Puebla Group, he was certainly well received by Evo Morales. There are also many Venezuelans in Peru doing political work and they have an ideological background.”

“Castillo is not alone. I think he has had support from the Puebla Group, he was certainly well received by Evo Morales.”

Presidential candidate, Peru

Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, is a divisive figure. Her supporters hope that, like her father, she could bring economic stability to a nation that badly needs it. Her critics worry that, like her father, she is a criminal – she is already under investigation on corruption charges. A political analyst in Lima commented, “Fujimori’s name is toxic to many in Peru and normally she would face a huge ‘anti-vote’ but she is against a candidate who represents an economic threat, this should encourage many who didn’t vote, specifically those in Lima, to get behind her during the second round.”

“Fujimori’s name is toxic to many in Peru and normally she would face a huge ‘anti-vote’ but she is against a candidate who represents an economic threat.”

Political analyst, Peru

One presidential candidate, worried what the results meant for Peru’s fragile economy and fragmented political environment, “The big winner here will be discontent. The leading candidate has just 18%, this means that 4 out of 5 Peruvians have not voted for the winner. The ultimate victor will have a hard job, not only will they inherit a country in economic ruin, but they will also have to restore hope to the people and bridge the gaps in the political landscape.”

“The big winner here will be discontent. The leading candidate has just 18%, this means that 4 out of 5 Peruvians have not voted for the winner.”

Presidential candidate, Peru

With such a fragmented political landscape, the key for both candidates now will be the formation of alliances.

A political analyst in Lima commented, “Alliances will be imperative with all the candidates having such low numbers. Castillo, naturally, could join with with Veronika Mendoza, Marco Arana, probably Antauro Humala or even the Morado party. For Keiko, support would come from De Soto and Lopez Aliaga, both right-wing candidates. In Congress, there are 11 benches all with very small quotas, so 4 or 5 groups will have to come together, which will complicate parliamentary work tremendously.”

A political commentator and professor also highlighted the importance of alliances, “We must remember that in Peru, weak parties are not so important, alliances help to convince people and the main thing for these candidates is to seek voters. In Congress, Castillo’s bench is larger and will seek alliances that limit the possibility of vacancies. The Congress will have more ‘veto capacity’ against the upcoming president. There are 3 major right-wing benches while the left is more divided.”

We don’t envy the choice facing the Peruvian people.

The professor was concerned about the next few years, “I see both candidates as very problematic. In the case of Castillo, there is more concern about a discontinuity in economics and insufficient stability which will be a problem for international markets. In Keiko’s case, there is an authoritarian problem of Fujimorism, and there is a risk that she ends up ruling with a more right-wing group without seeing the great problems that the country has moving forward.”

We don’t envy the job facing the next president either. The winner will inherit a health crisis, economic crisis and political crisis which they will have to face with a fragmented Congress intent on taking power from the executive.

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