Keiki Fujimori and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) are going to face each other in Peru’s presidential election runoff. Local polls are divided on whether Kuczynski can defeat Keiko on June 5. Only thousands of votes will decide the winner, who will be the one that gets closer to the center in the political spectrum. Keiko Fujimori (39.9%) from Fuerza Popular secured her place in the runoff early in the day with a clear advantage from Kuczynski’s 21.0% (Peruanos por el Kambio) and Verónica Mendoza´s 18.8% (Frente Amplio). Fujimori and Kuczynski will face each other on the June 5 runoff. While Keiko led preferences in the first electoral round, things change quickly in a runoff. (Recall Mario Vargas Llosa’s plunge against Alberto Fujimori, Keiko’s dad, in the 1990 presidential runoff.)
As in the latest Peruvian presidential elections, the center of the political spectrum will be key. Humala lost in 2006 against Alan Garcia because he placed himself far to the left in that election. Then he changed his strategy and won in 2011, as he ran as a more moderated candidate than Keiko Fujimori.
This is also the reason why local polls clearly show that Keiko would have defeated Mendoza in the runoff. Mendoza refused to move from the left to the center and now, as it happened to Humala, she will have to wait five years to be able to do it.
Polls show different results and a close runoff between Fujimori and Kuczynski; however, from all the candidates, only Kuczynski could defeat Keiko precisely because he is close to the center.
So far two issues have dominated the campaign and will continue to do so until June 5. First, there is the clear division between those who support Fujimori and those who does not. Keiko is Alberto Fujimori’s daughter, a controversial president of Peru in the 1990’s, popular for restoring Peru’s macroeconomic stability, but also currently in jail accused for human rights violations. Keiko is associated with his father’s successes and crimes, which has gained her support in rural areas and an “anti-Fujimori” sentiment in the main cities.
The anti-Fujimori sentiment is Keiko’s Achilles’ heel and an opportunity for Kuczynski. Peruanos por el Kambio’s candidate will also have Peru’s Electoral Tribunal latest ruling in his favor, which banned two presidential candidates weeks before the election.
Still in January, it was unclear if Julio Guzman or César Acuña would support Keiko in the presidential runoff. At that time, Guzman appeared to be the black horse that could win the presidency after he increased its vote intentions from 1.9 to 10.4% from December to January. Then, in February and March, the electoral tribunal removed Guzman and Acuña’s names from their ballots.
Acuña was accused for handing money, $4,400, to its supporters during his campaign. The tribunal argued that Guzman’s party did not inform them about changing its procedure to choose its candidate. Acuña and Guzman had around 25% of the vote intention together. As it is possible to see in the following chart, before the ruling, Alfredo Barnechea and Veronica Mendoza had no change of appearing in the runoff ballot.
Fujimori was also investigated for giving money away during her campaign, but in this case, the electoral tribunal decided that she should not be disqualified. If Keiko Fujimori wins, she could enjoy less legitimacy; two presidential candidates were banned so close to the election date; she survived a similar trial to her contestants, and somethings she is blamed for Guzman and Acuña’s exclusion. This is something that Kuczynski could also exploit in the next weeks.
This is related with the second issue that has dominated the campaign; Peruvians discontent with the status quo despite the country’s economic growth of the last decades. Peruvian’s anger for the current political establishment benefited Guzman over Kuczynski and explains the low support for Alan García and Alejandro Toledo, both former presidents.
Peruvian’s discontent also appears in one of the lowest presidential approval rates in the region, just above Rousseff’s. Ollanta Humala’s approval reached 15% by March. Additionally, according to the latest Latinobarometro survey, only 25% of Peruvians are satisfied with democracy and 55% say that democracy should be preferred to other types of governments, while the rest could tolerate authoritarian governments, does not know or it is indifferent.
LATAM PM’s take: As we have mentioned in previous articles, Peru’s next president will require a much higher political capital than what Humala currently has to implement the structural reforms to keep economic growth momentum alive. Peruvian’s discontent with the current government involved in a deep corruption scandal, the fragmented election and the decision of the Electoral Tribunal could diminish the legitimacy and political capital of the next president.
Analyst: Fernando Posadas