By Cecilia Remón
There are only three requirements to run for the presidency of Peru: a candidate must be over 35 years of age, have Peruvian nationality by birth and have the right to vote.
Despite these simple requirements, not just anyone can run. On Jan. 17 came into force an amendment to the Law of Political Parties (2003) that makes candidacies contingent on internal elections and submission of a government plan and the applicant’s resume. Those who omit information on their resume and who promise, offer or give money or gifts, either personally or through third parties during the campaign, are automatically eliminated from the electoral process.
The latter happened to César Acuña, from the Alliance for Progress (APP), who was eliminated on Mar. 10 by the National Jury of Elections (JNE) for giving 10,000 soles (US$ 2,800) to a few merchants on Feb. 10 during a proselytizing act. In January, Acuña had 12 percent of the vote and was competing for second place behind Keiko Fujimori, of Popular Force, who had about 30 percent support. Fujimori is the daughter of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), now in prison for corruption and human rights violations.
However, accusations of plagiarism in his doctoral dissertation and the appropriation of a text on educational issues that he never wrote, led to his decline in support. By February, Acuña only had 4 percent support.
Julio Guzmán, representing All for Peru (TPP), was eliminated on the same day as Acuña due to problems in registering his party. Guzmán, with 17 percent of voting intent, had become the favorite to challenge Fujimori in the second round.
Nineteen candidates were registered to participate in the elections on Apr. 10. After Acuña and Guzmán’s elimination from the elections and the resignation of three others due to low voting intent — it is necessary for parties to obtain more than 5 percent of valid votes to not lose their registration —, including the ruling Nationalist Party, currently 14 candidates compete, two of whom are women who are in political opposites: the conservative Fujimori and leftist Verónika Mendoza.
An Ipsos poll published on Mar. 13 showed a new electoral scene after Guzmán and Acuña’s removal. Fujimori remains at 32 percent, followed by rightist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, of Peruvians for Change (PPK), with 14 percent; Alfredo Barnechea, of Popular Action (AP), tied for third place with Mendoza, of Broad Front (FA), with 9 percent of voting intent. Further back are former presidents Alan García of the Popular Alliance (APRA-Christian People’s Party), with 6 percent, and Alejandro Toledo of Peru Posible, with 2 percent. The other candidates do not exceed 1 percent of voting intent.
According to the same poll, if Fujimori and Kuczynski compete in the second round, scheduled for June 5, the latter would win the elections.
Reshuffling of candidate support
According to Alfredo Torres, CEO of Ipsos, Kuczynski is the main beneficiary of Guzmán and Acuña’s elimination.
“Not only did he regain second place that he had until January, but he is the one who wins more percentage points,” said Torres in a column in the newspaper El Comercio. “The five points that he gets are probably from recovering voters who prefer a technocrat candidate, but who had chosen Guzmán because they were attracted by his youth and proposal of renewal.”
Barnechea, center right, and Mendoza also benefited from the reshuffling of support. However, Fujimori and García, perceived by the electorate as those responsible for the Guzmán and Acuña’s elimination, had only an increase of 1 percent in voter support, and they also have the strongest opposition, that is, the portion of people who definitely would not vote for either of them. Nearly 50 percent of people would not vote for Fujimori, while 79 percent would not vote for García.
For analyst Luis Benavente, from the consulting firm Vox Populi, there is a very high rejection of the political system and many people voting for change.
“A 58 percent want a change, versus 24 percent who do not want change,” Benavente said. “There is increasingly more rejection of No-change candidates and greater sympathy for those who [represent] change”.
For his part, Fernando Tuesta, a political scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP), said that the No-change candidates are those who are part of the “stable cast” (Fujimori, Kuczynski, García and Toledo), who have been in the political scene for years, while the “outsiders” are the new candidates who are not seen as traditional politicians. Guzmán was considered a typical “outsider”.
“Guzmán was a candidate who was building his candidacy for two years. He had no party, had no apparatus, the media ignored him. But he used social networks, which are cheap and were available to him,” Tuesta said. “His growth was due to the fall of the ‘stable cast’.” He went from 4 percent support in December to 17 percent, with chances of winning the second round.
Keiko Fujimori, the untouchable
However, the JNE decision against Guzmán and Acuña have been strongly questioned because the illegal acts they committed also have been committed by Fujimori and her people, and she has not been excluded from the electoral process.
A series of images and videos began circulating in early March in which Vladimiro Huaroc, vice presidential candidate for Popular Forces, appear giving food in exchange for votes, Kenji Fujimori, brother of Keiko Fujimori and candidate for Congress, is seen gifting equipment to Police, and Keiko Fujimori herself is handing envelopes with money.
For the JNE, “the allegations have not been corroborated with probative evidence” and they “cannot determine the nature of the event (proselytizing or other) in which the delivery of money was made.” The public responded with a massive march against Fujimori, held on Mar. 11, who is seen as untouchable by the electoral authorities.
Journalist Claudia Cisneros said in her column in the newspaper La República that with the decision as it stands now, it is “absolutely clear the lack of neutrality and favoritism of the JNE that dismissed Acuña for a similar act. If the law does not apply to Keiko as it does to Acuña, all this will have been a farce and the JNE should be condemned for its interference in the electoral process by arbitrarily choosing who to keep and who to leave out.”
For writer Gustavo Faverón, the mass demonstrations against Fujimori, the videos that record the illegal distribution of money, and the level of tiredness of people due to impunity, “is a description of the environment that existed in the days when Alberto Fujimori abandoned the presidential palace [in November 2000], but it is also a description of the environment to which Keiko Fujimori wants to return.”
The truth is that the partiality of the electoral authorities reminds many of the electoral process of 2000, when Alberto Fujimori won fraudulently, eventually leading to his downfall.
“Suddenly, it seemed we are at the time of [Vladimiro] Montesinos (who must be smiling, smug in his cell) and Fujimori, the original, not the copy (who must be smiling, hopeful, in his golden prison), when ‘the law was the law.’ Of course, they handled it at their will because they completely took over the judiciary, electoral authorities, the media and tutti quanti. We’re not there, of course. But that feeling of déjà vu is not gratuitous,” says psychoanalyst Jorge Bruce in La República.