Peru Election 2006

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Lourdes Flores’ Up-Close and “Hyper-Personal” Campaign

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Maxwell A. Cameron
February 9, 2006

In a meeting with the Asociación de Prensa Extranjera en el Perú (APEP) in the Hotel Los Delfines in Lima, Lourdes Flores Nano, candidate for the National Unity alliance, argued that this election is about character and the need to restore trust and hope in politics. She said her campaign emphasizes her closeness to people, and establishes direct contact with voters as much as possible. It also emphasizes her personal attributes of hard work, integrity, and the ability to listen. This came in response to a question from a journalist who suggested that her campaign, unlike the campaign of APRA’s Alan García, does not focus on concrete specifics, but rather emphasizes macro issues. Flores said she thinks the campaign will not be driven by issues, and, in response to a question about her ties to powerful groups in the economy and the media, she repeated the point that her campaign has been “hyper-personal,” one of closeness and direct, personal dialogue.
Photo: M.A. Cameron
Flores said she has sought to address the hopelessness that characterizes the present moment. As a female candidate she feels she can generate some hope through her own credibility and empathy. This is a small advantage, she admitted, but it is important in the current climate of skepticism. As a woman, she would bring a different sensibility to politics, a different way of doing things. This would imply, for one thing, a combination of responsible economics with an emphasis on social policy change. Flores made her now familiar claim that Peruvians are tired of waiting for economic benefits to trickle down, she proposed policies to overcome social exclusion—including modernization of agriculture, promotion of small and medium sized business, and encouragement of tourism—and she argued that the state must be both strong and efficient.
In response to the argument that gender is an advantage she possesses in this campaign, one reporter asked whether not being a mother was a disadvantage. Flores said that, yes, she breaks the traditional mold. Normally people think of a politician as being a man of a certain age, married with children. However, her status as a single woman means that she can devote her energies fully to her work. This answer rings true, and may tap into some powerful sentiments among women. The claim is that if you are a woman in politics you are better off being single. A man with wife and children could devote himself entirely to politics and nobody would ask why he was not a more devoted family man. A woman is not granted that luxury, and hence faces the “double day” problem. If Peru is to have a woman for president, it is probably best that it be a single woman.
Flores’ strong emphasis on her own personal qualities reflects, in part, the deep disenchantment with political parties in the electorate. Her emphasis on hard-work and integrity is reminiscent of Alberto Fujimori, whose campaign slogan in 1990 was “honesty, technology, and work” (characteristics that were seen as attributes of people of Japanese ancestry). There is also evidence in Flores’ thinking of learning from the mistakes of the Vargas Llosa campaign–a campaign in which she participated. Vargas Llosa came off as aloof from voters, and as a politician who did not offer hope.
Vargas Llosa’s name came up in another occasion.
A question posed to Flores was whether she is being hurt by the perception of being closely tied to powerful economic interests and to the media, something that damaged Vargas Llosa in 1990 and allowed Fujimori to emerge as an insurgent candidate late in the campaign. Flores said that she has not been favored by the media, in fact she has been subjected to tough criticism. She also reiterated that she is not remote from the people. Her campaign style, which involves traveling the length and breadth of the country, is reminiscent of electoral campaigns of the 1950s.
The second time Vargas Llosa’s name was mentioned was in a question about the second round. Flores was realistic about the unlikelihood of winning in the first round, and said that the period between the first and second round would be critical in terms of establishing the kinds of alliances necessary to govern. She came close to entering the second round in 2001, and demonstrated her ability to win votes across sectors, so she can be confident that the sort of “anyone but Vargas Llosa” campaign that happened after the first round in 1990 would not be repeated. In 1990 there were disciplined parties—the left and APRA—that were able to direct their voters against the front-runner. In this election, there will be voters who may not have made her their first choice who would, nevertheless, be prepared to support her in a second round.
Returning to the issue of the media, Flores was asked about the recent cancellation of César Hildebrandt’s television show on Frecuencia Latina. Flores regretted Hildebrandt’s departure from the television, and reinforced what Hildebrandt himself has said: she needs no protection from the media and welcomes independent journalism.
Flores is clearly someone who enjoys discussing policy issues. She joked that any manual on political strategy would say that the front-runner should never convene a debate with the other candidates, but she said she has no problem with the confrontation of ideas in a format that is appropriate, and no difficulty facing a critical audience.
Flores is a strong debater and a policy wonk. She talked in depth about the problems in the mining sector, coca production, education reform, Chilean investment in Peruvian ports, policies to promote foreign direct investment, subsidies in agriculture, and Peru’s role in the international community. Her answers were impressive not only for the familiarity with the substance of the issues, but also for the logic of exposition. Her style tends to be to start with generalities, followed by a discussion of specifics, and to ensure in the process that the essence of the question is acknowledged. That alone is not necessarily extraordinary, but to do this for nearly two hours without making the slightest gaffe or political misstep, all the while speaking without notes and with complete clarity, is the mark of an impressive candidate.
If the Flores campaign has been impressive so far, its main vulnerability is the flip-side of its greatest strength: that is, the reliance on the appeal of the candidate. The strong emphasis on the candidate and her merits, and the reliance on close personal contact with voters as a means of cultivating an image of care and concern for ordinary people, could backfire. There are no solid organized linkages between voters and the political machinery behind the candidate. Support for Flores may be fickle. A lot will depend on her performance in the campaign—and in any future debate. Voters know they are not getting only Flores. They are also getting two vice presidential candidates, 120 candidates to congress, and a huge entourage that does not necessarily have her sensibility or appeal. The closer she gets to power, the more voters are going to start to look at the people around the candidate. The electorate will be turned off very quickly if political hacks around the candidate start acting like they can take power for granted (and begin to speculate about who gets to be prime minister, minister of this or that, and so forth). The recent debate over some of the less desirable names on the list of UN congressional candidates–what in local slang are called the “anticuchos”–is potentially the sort of discussion that could be most harmful.
A final note. According to La Republica (see below), Flores was harrassed by Humala supporters when she later attempted to visit with voters in Ate along the Carretera Central in Lima. The goal would seem to be to interrupt the “up-close and hyper-personal” relationship that Flores seeks to establish with voters.

Jueves negro para Lourdes
Por: Lenka Zàjec.
La Republica
Viernes 10 de Febrero del 2006, p. 8.

El de ayer no fue un día grato para la candidata de Unidad Nacional. No solo tuvo que refrescarse a la fuerza, debido a un chorro de agua que le lanzaron unos desadaptados, también tuvo que hacer de Fray Martín de Porras para frenar una gresca entre sus militantes y los de Ollanta Humala; y, de ‘yapa’, soportar los palos de Rafael Rey.
El jueves negro para Lourdes Flores comenzó cuando, durante una caminata por mercados de la urbanización Ceres, en Ate Vitarte, un grupo de pobladores le expresaron su rechazo y se declararon simpatizantes del comandante Humala. Lourdes Flores no se inmutó. Con la misma sonrisa del comienzo, demostró estar consciente de que así es el fútbol.
La serenidad de la lideresa de UN y de los candidatos al Congreso que la acompañaban, entre ellos Milagros Campos y Federico Tong, indignó aun más a los humalistas que, a medida que avanzaba la caminata, se batían en insultos.
Sin embargo, cuando los humalistas pasaron de los gritos a las manos, y la policía debió actuar para impedir que la concentración termine peor, Lourdes Flores también se pronunció. Saludó a los humalistas y les agradeció por su presencia, “para eso es la democracia”, comentó. Acto seguido, recordó que su campaña proselitista era “fraternal” y buscaba el diálogo, no la violencia.
Su discurso, no obstante, era aplacado por el sol, porque los humalistas seguían en sus trece. Levantaban más sus pancartas, mientras otros rompían las de la candidata de UN.
No a las provocaciones
“Si quieren gritar, griten, muchachos. Yo me acerco, los saludo; bromeo, como debe ser en democracia. Yo comprendo que mientras más nerviosos se ponen (sus contendores), más gritarán y nosotros más serenos estaremos. No voy a caer en la provocación”, explicó luego a los periodistas que cubrían sus actividades proselitistas.
Antes, casi al término de su alocución, Flores Nano tuvo que enfrentar otro desaire. El presidente de la asociación de mercados de Ceres, tomó el micrófono de manos de la candidata y le pidió que su visita a Vitarte no sea solo “para llevar agua para su molino”, y más bien la conminó a que cumpla lo que había prometido. El dirigente también aprovechó para darle las quejas del alcalde de Lima, Luis Castañeda Lossio, a quien acusó de querer desalojar a los comerciantes de la zona en las próximas semanas para iniciar la construcción de un corredor vial.
No renegociará Camisea
De otro lado, en relación al contrato de Camisea, la candidata de UN dijo, a diferencia de Valentín Paniagua que en un eventual gobierno suyo será respetuosa de los compromisos del Estado. Eso sí, aseguró, que las empresas reguladoras cumplirán bien su labor.
Rey: “Lourdes fue avasallada y engañada”
Rafael Rey denunció públicamente que Lourdes Flores había sido “avasallada” y “engañada” por los integrantes de su lista de aspirantes al Parlamento, de ahí que salieran a la luz tantos escándalos respecto a la honorabilidad de algunos que conforman su plancha congresal, entre ellos, Horacio Cánepa, José Luna Gálvez, Kurt Woll y Raúl Castro. Explicó que una de las condiciones que puso Luis Castañeda para que Solidaridad Nacional ratifique su alianza con el PPC, fue que UN no exija a sus candidatos al Congreso una hoja de vida adicional a la que se presenta ante el Jurado Nacional de Elecciones. Según Rey, en suma, precisamente eso fue lo que impidió verificar el currículo de los candidatos de Solidaridad Nacional, o de pepecistas como Raúl Castro Stagnaro, nada menos que uno de los vicepresidentes de esa organización política.
Las denuncias del congresista fueron más allá. En diálogo con este diario, reveló que Castañeda condicionó también su permanencia en UN a cambio de que se incluya en la lista de candidatos al Congreso al legislador de PP, Jacques Rodrich. Según Rey, esto era una forma de retribuir a Rodrich por el ‘tibio’ informe que presentó luego de que investigó a la Municipalidad de Lima por el tema de las revisiones técnicas. El mismo Rey indicó que, si bien al principio Lourdes Flores aceptó incluir a Rodrich en su lista, un día después de la propuesta le dijo a Castañeda que lo sentía, pero que la solicitud no era procedente.
Respecto a estas acusaciones, el secretario general de Solidaridad Nacional, Marco Parra, respondió que Rafael Rey hace ese tipo de declaraciones porque no irá a la reelección. En ese sentido, negó que el Alcalde de Lima haya condicionado la renovación de la alianza en Unidad Nacional a cambio de la inclusión del legislador Jacques Rodrich en la lista de candidatos al Congreso por UN.
Consultada sobre las denuncias de Rey, Lourdes Flores se negó a responder. En diálogo con los medios de comunicación que cubrían sus actividades en Ate Vitarte, señaló enfáticamente: “Ese capítulo, para mí, está cerrado”.

Written by Michael Ha

February 9th, 2006 at 8:51 pm

Posted in Analysis & Opinion

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