Peru Election 2006

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Washington Post coverage of the Peruvian Election

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Washington Post: Peruvian Election Primer

Peruvian Election Primer
Compiled by Heather Murphy
Monday, April 3, 2006; 4:30 PM

On April 9, Peruvians will vote for a new president and renew the 120-seat Congress of the Republic. Though 20 names are listed on the ballot, the presidential campaign has been dominated by three strong personalities: the nationalistic ex-military commander Ollanta Humala, the pro-business former congresswoman Lourdes Flores, and the charismatic former president Alan Garcia.
Who is likely to win according to the polls?
Although Lourdes Flores was the front-runner in February, recent polls unanimously show Ollanta Humala with the lead, followed by Flores and Garcia. Ollanta is unlikely to garner the 50 percent of the vote necessary to win in the first round, however, which makes the race for second place particularly critical. An April 2 poll in the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio put Flores ahead of Garcia and predicted that if the former congresswoman was to make it to round two, Peru would have its first woman president. If Garcia was to make it to round two, however, the poll predicted that Ollanta would win.
Can Peruvian polls be trusted?
No. Peruvian polls are notoriously unreliable. The most solid prediction is that there will be a second round and Humala will be in it. The volatility of the polls rests on the fact that many Peruvians do not make up their minds until a few days before the election and that polls rarely reach the 20 percent of voters in the poorest, most remote areas of the country. (Because isolated, low income voters are most likely to vote for Humala, this may mean he is even further ahead than polls suggest).
What’s at stake for Peru?
The campaign has been, in many ways, more about personalities than policies. A key issue for all three candidates, however, is poverty alleviation. Though Peru has experienced significant economic growth over the past few years, 54 percent of the population lives in poverty according to a 2006 United Nations Development Program report. A recent rise in exports (in particular gold, minerals, and foodstuffs), foreign investment, and tax revenue has not improved living conditions for the average Peruvian. All candidates have promised new jobs, an improved economy and a better way to distribute new wealth throughout Peruvian society, with Humala focusing most overtly on the poor and Flores and Garcia emphasizing fiscal discipline.
What’s at stake for the United States?
The United States and Peru struck a free trade agreement last December, a move intended to solidify U.S.-Peruvian relations and, eventually, to facilitate a broader U.S.-Andean trade pact. While Flores and Garcia support the agreement, Humala is determined to prevent it.
Who are the key candidates?
The nationalist former army officer currently leads the polls. The candidate of Union for Peru, he has focused his campaign on poor and rural voters, emphasizing wealth redistribution and government reform. His pledges to nationalize strategic sectors of the economy, such as mining and gas, and to rewrite Peru’s constitution have raised eyebrows among journalists, academics, and business leaders. Critics suggest his autocratic tendencies would mean the end to political and press freedom.
Humala, who has the backing of Venezuela’s populist President Hugo Chavez and has aligned himself with other leftist leaders, entered the national spotlight in 2000 when he led a failed coup against Alberto Fujimori. He is an open admirer of military dictator Gen. Juan Velasco who oversaw a coup in 1968 and ruled Peru with an iron hand until 1975, attempting to redistribute land from the wealthy to the poor, and implenting state control of print and broadcast media.
He has been highly critical of the United States, opposing the U.S.-backed eradication of coca and the U.S.-Peru free trade agreement supported by outgoing President Alejandro Toledo.
Markets have reacted negatively to his rise. According to the Wall Street Journal, the so-called “Humala effect” resulted in a 4 percent drop in the Lima Stock Exchange index and sparked a sell-off in the Peruvian sol.
Lourdes Flores, a pro-business lawyer and former congresswoman, was an early front-runner in the polls, only recently slipping behind Ollanta Humala. Flores has pledged to continue outgoing president Alejandro Toledo’s neoliberal free-market policies. Her strongest support comes from Peru’s small middle class in Lima and the country’s business leaders. Emphasizing microcredits and training for small businesses over large-scale investment, she insists she is not the big business candidate. Nonetheless, she has not been able to shake off a reputation as the “candidate of the rich.” Observers fault her choice of running mate, wealthy banker Arturo Woodman, and also point to lavish fundraising dinners and millions spent on advertising as proof that she is out of touch with the poor.
Washington and foreign investors tend to see her as a safe choice. She would support the U.S.-Peru free trade agreement pursued by outgoing president Alejandro Toledo. Unlike Humala, she backs an all-out war on drug trafficking, proposing investment in alternative crops to induce small farmers to give up growing coca. Her policies are considered market-friendly by international investors.
Former president Alan Garcia has targeted younger voters and depicted himself as an elder statesman who has learned from his mistakes. The candidate of the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, he is widely remembered as the leader of one of the worst governments Peru has ever had; from 1985 to 1990 he presided over economic chaos and the rise of Shining Path rebel violence. When he left office, the economy was in ruins, with inflation at more than 7,000 percent.
Though numerous voters have said they would not vote for Garcia under any circumstances (32 percent according to Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería, more than any other candidate), a growing number of others seem to accept his transformation. He has reached out to the lower classes, promising to promote workers rights, lessen the economic divide and maintain macroeconomic stability. With a jab directed at Humala, he suggests that he is the only leader prepared to represent the poor without a takeover of private property.
How is Alberto Fujimori involved?
The former authoritarian president has attempted to field a presidential campaign, although he is banned from holding office until 2011 and faces numerous charges of human rights violations and corruption. He remains detained in Chile, where he was arrested in November while trying to re-enter Peru. He had lived in self-imposed exile in Japan since 2000. Though he is not a real contender in the election, his legacy will inevitably influence the outcome.
Who will dominate the legislative election?
Because there is little party loyalty among voters, Congress is likely to be split among five parties. Lourdes Flores’s National Unity alliance would lead the way, with 15 percent of the vote according to a poll by a Lima-based polling firm known as CPI. Alan Garcia’sAmerican Revolutionary Revolutionary Alliance would be second with 12 percent, followed by former president Alberto Fujimori’s Alliance for the Future with 11 per cent, governing party Peru Possible with 8 percent, and Ollanta Humala’s Union for Peru with 6 percent, according to the same poll.
American Popular Revolutionary Alliance
APRA is Peru’s oldest and only well-institutionalized party. The party was founded in 1924 as an anti-imperialist solution to Peru’s problems. Considered a radical left-wing movement in the early 1930s, it gathered substantial mass support and by the 1950s, evolved into a slightly left-of-center, middle-class organization with a strong labor base. Consequently, the party lost some of its most talented young leaders to the Marxist left. In 1985, Alan Garcia became the first Aprista leader to assume the presidency. His widespread popularity was viewed as the principal reason for the party’s unprecedented sweep of municipal elections in 2001. Despite Garcia’s disastrous first presidency, and his failed against Alejandro Toledo five years ago, APRA is counting on him once again.
Union for Peru
The UPP party was formed in 1994 as a campaign vehicle for Javier Perez de Cuellar. The former UN secretary general captured 21 percent of the vote, a distant second to Fujimori. In 2006, the UPP aligned itself with the Peruvian National Party and endorsed Ollanta Humala for president.
Peru Posible
Peru Posible was founded in 1999 by outgoing president Alejandro Toledo. The party has suffered as Toledo’s approval rating has plummeted. While Peru’s first democratically elected president of Indian descent managed to keep the economy healthy and spur gross domestic product growth at an average of 4.5 percent a year, frustration grew among workers who did not reap the fruits of Peru’s macroeconomic success. A string of scandals and allegations of corruption damaged his party’s reputation further and pushed his approval ratings into the single digits. The party’s 2006 presidential candidate, Rafael Balaunde Aubry, pulled out of the race Jan. 31.
National Unity
The center-right National Unity alliance was founded in 2001 by presidential candidate Lourdes Flores. An alliance of other political parties, including the Christian People’s Party, the National Solidarity Party and the National Renewal Party, it is expected to lead the way in the congressional elections.
News and Wire Reports, CIA World Fact Book, U.S. Department of State, The Political Handbook of the World, IPSOS, World Markets Research Centre, United Nations Development Program, Council on Foreign Relations
The University of British Columbia Peru Election Resource
Living in Peru

Written by Michael Ha

April 6th, 2006 at 7:12 am

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