Peru’s Election: Left Turn Versus U-Turn

by Max Cameron and Fabiola Bazo
The Mark
April 14, 2011

The resurgence of the Fujimori family in this year’s elections threatens Peru’s development.
This past Sunday, Peruvian voters selected Ollanta Humala (under the banner of Gana Perú) and Keiko Fujimori (Fuerza 2011) to enter a second round of voting, or ballotage. Voters chose between 10 candidates for the presidency, and from 13 congressional slates. Definitive parliamentary results will not be known for days (or weeks), but it appears that Gana Perú and Fuerza 2011 will obtain the largest number of seats in Congress, followed by Alejandro Toledo’s Perú Posible. The runoff will be held on Sunday, June 5.

Humala was the only candidate to occupy the centre-left of the political spectrum. This is what got him into the top running in the last presidential election (2006). At that time, he lost in the runoff against a superior tactician, Peru’s current president, Alan García of the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA). Under an amendment to Peru’s 1993 constitution, García was not allowed to run for re-election this time, and APRA did not even field a presidential candidate.

Unlike in 2006, when Humala aligned himself with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, in this election he has presented himself as a leader in the mould of the former moderate-leftist president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. By running a tighter, more professional campaign – one that cast him in a kinder, gentler light, as a caring father and husband and a moderate democratic leader – Humala significantly lowered the number of voters who viewed him negatively.

Humala’s success in the first round exposed the errors of politicians on the democratic right, many of whom believed that García’s victory in 2006 signalled the definitive triumph of moderation and market-friendly policies over populist nationalism. If Humala failed in 2006, they reasoned, his chances were even bleaker in 2011 after another five years of rapid economic growth. The assumption that the economic model was not at risk lulled the right into complacency.

Discounting the need for unity, the right ran three candidates rather than one: Alejandro Toledo (Perú Posible), president from 2001-2006; Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (Alianza por el Gran Cambio), former prime minister and minister of finance in the Alejandro Toledo administration – which ran the country from 2001 to 2006; and Luis Castañeda Lossio (Solidaridad Nacional), former mayor of Lima. Try as many did, Peru’s right could not unite for this election.

Running against Humala is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity. A victory by Keiko Fujimori would be a serious setback for Peru’s democracy. It would open the doors to the return to mafia rule and rampant corruption, to the abuse of power, and to the violation of basic constitutional precepts. It would also be a step toward the consolidation of a dynasty: Keiko Fujimori is not the only member of the Fujimori family to do well in this election. Alberto Fujimori’s youngest son, Kenyi Fujimori, who ran for Congress, appears to have obtained the largest number of votes in Lima, just as Keiko did in 2006. Many believe that, if she were elected, Keiko would immediately pardon her father. The joke is already circulating that Kenyi will run in 2021 so he can pardon Keiko, a clear allusion to the view that Keiko would end up in jail at the end of her mandate, as her father did, for human right abuses and corruption.

Democracy promotion needs more resources, imagination, political will

By Maxwell A. Cameron
April 13, 2011

Support for democracy is a central pillar of the Harper government’s policy of re-engagement with the Americas. To this end, the government created a ministerial post responsible for foreign affairs in the Americas in 2008, which Peter Kent held until he was replaced by Diane Ablonczy in a Cabinet shuffle in January.

Minister Kent played an active and constructive role at the Organization of American States, the Western Hemisphere’s main multilateral body. After the June 2009 coup in Honduras, for example, Canada joined the rest of the region in expelling Honduras from the OAS, and Kent later played a role in seeking a resolution to the diplomatic crisis.

The Harper government has also taken less visible steps, such as creating a “hub of democracy” in the region. The Andean Unit for Democratic Governance places civil servants responsible for developing democracy assistance policies in the region, thereby ensuring those policies reflect the complexities and subtleties of reality on the ground, and ensuring a sustained presence in the region.

Funding has been provided to intergovernmental organizations like International IDEA. And the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Glyn Berry Program for Peace and Security puts citizens at the centre of democracy assistance programs.

On the downside, however, Canadian policy has tended to be more in tune with the thinking in Washington than the rest of the region. Canada accepted the victory of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo in Honduras’s December 2009 election, for example. Many other nations of the Americas argued that the elections were not legitimate, and Honduras remains excluded from the OAS to this day. This has not stopped Canada from initiating free trade negotiations with the Lobo government.

When Canada has pursued policies distinct from the United States—like making aid to Bolivia a priority, and avoiding antagonizing the government of Evo Morales—policymakers in the region have not always registered such nuances. Canada and the United States were both excluded from the Latin American and Caribbean Unity Summit in 2010, and neither country was offered membership in the newly formed UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations.

Perhaps the biggest obstacles to deeper engagement with the Americas have been domestic. A minority government situation is probably responsible for the lethargy in the government’s democracy agenda. But the Harper government has not moved forward on its policy response to a major statement by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development with respect to democracy assistance. It has not created the Canadian Democracy Promotion Agency that was announced in a throne speech in 2008.

The policy of engagement with Latin American democracies needs an injection of resources, imagination and political will. Canada can regain influence by funding sustained on-the-ground engagement, and by giving a longer leash to Canadian diplomats.

It could promote dialogue with civil society in the region, and fund Canadian non-governmental organizations (like KAIROS and the Canadian Council for International Co-operation) that build bridges with the region.

Finally, Canada could link practitioners and researchers, and use social media to promote dialogue and deliberation in cyberspace.

Canada could also promote democratization at the global as well as local levels. The OAS is a club of states that don’t like to criticize each other. It could be transformed into a more inclusive, deliberative body. The OAS would be more relevant, and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the main diplomatic instrument for promoting and defending democracy in the Americas, could be more effective, if legislators and civil society were given a voice to empower the secretary-general to undertake missions in the region to promote democratic innovation and prevent backsliding.

And Canadian foreign policy itself should be democratized. A well-designed, broadly consultative foreign policy review is overdue. There are all sorts of innovations in civil society participation that could serve as models for democratic consultation. Brazil holds participatory policy conferences on a range of public policy issues. They are convened by the executive and generate proposals that can be submitted as bills to the legislature. We could learn from Brazil.

A bold democracy assistance agenda would not be just about making “them” more democratic like “us.” It would be about making the world a more democratic place, Canada included.

Maxwell A. Cameron co-ordinates the Andean Democracy Research Network in the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the University of British Columbia. With Catherine Hecht, he is the author of Canada’s Engagement with Democracies in the Americas in the October 2008 edition of Canadian Foreign Policy.

Elections Are Not ‘War by Other Means’

by Maxwell A. Cameron
Professor, Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions, University of British Columbia

The Mark, April 13 2011

Competition is good. It makes us better, stronger, and more successful. This mantra is widely accepted in business and politics. It enjoys an aura of scientific respectability: Darwin’s survival of the fittest suggests that competition is not only good – it is natural.

But the great evolutionary advantage enjoyed by humans arises from our capacity for co-operation, not competition. Great civilizations have never been built on competition alone. The human capacity for empathy, for social problem-solving, and for moral judgment are the foundation of human progress. Without our ability to imitate, collaborate, learn, and understand one another, we would have developed neither language nor tools, neither art nor, indeed, war.

Yet over and again, our public discourse emphasizes conflict and competition over empathy and co-operation. Tom Flanagan’s claim in a recent commentary in The Globe and Mail that “an election is war by other means” is a good example of this bias. Since all is fair in love and war, why should we worry when politicians attack each other, bend or misrepresent the truth, and present themselves, not their ideas, before the electorate? To think otherwise is high-mindedness, says Flanagan.

Curiously, Flanagan quotes Aristotle to back up his argument. But Aristotle was a “do the right thing” kind of guy, not a mean-spirited bully. He thought politics was about finding the common good, about doing what was right for one’s self and one’s community. Flanagan should have quoted Machiavelli instead – although I hasten to add that there are even readings of Machiavelli that would suggest the imprudence of the “election is war” mantra.

More to the point, contemporary political science has increasingly moved away from the idea that politics has any natural essence. It is not “like war” or “like nature.” It is what we make of it. If politicians race to the moral bottom, then political life suffers. There is nothing inevitable or natural about this.

Politics requires the exercise of political and moral judgment. An election is not a war by other means. It is a process of selecting leaders on the basis of their capacity to assume responsibility, to know their ethical limits, and to have the empathy to understand and serve the public well. If they can’t exhibit these qualities during an election, they certainly won’t in power.

When we treat politics like war, our adversaries become enemies. They are no longer collaborators as well as competitors in a struggle to serve the common good, but nuisances or worse. They must be crushed or eliminated. This is indeed a step toward war.

Campaigns are not only about selecting leaders. Our deliberative institutions are weakened when we obsessively focus on the horse race among leaders and ignore the platforms they propose to implement. There is nothing particularly high-minded about the expectation that substantive debate occur around an election. We want to know not only who is going to govern us but also how they are going to govern us.

One of the reasons we are in this election campaign is precisely because of the contempt for Parliament exhibited by a government that does not accept that truth in politics matters and that ministerial responsibility is an inherent and indispensable part of our system of government – a government that thinks it is OK to bully top civil servants into submission, punish whistleblowers, and hide from accountability.

Flanagan is right in one respect: Going negative does work. This is why Canadians who are tired of the incivility of politics should speak out. The trend toward attack-style politics is not irreversible. We get the politicians we deserve and, if we think we deserve better, we should express a little more outrage about the tenor of political life.

The last thing we should do is encourage nastiness. We need look no further than Flanagan’s own words to see what happens when we fail to hold ourselves to standards of civil discourse. Not long ago he publicly, albeit fatuously, called for the assassination of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, on national television.

Flanagan’s words brought to mind an observation by political philosopher J.G.A. Pocock. He said that when Shakespeare’s Brutus calls Caesar a tyrant, he “invokes a whole world of reference structures, into which his other words, his intended act, and his verbalized state of consciousness now enter in such a way that it qualifies them all; so that ‘Caesar,’ ‘kill,’ ‘intend,’ and even ‘I’ take on new meanings retrodictively as they enter the world that ‘tyrant’ invokes.”

Pocock went on to make a memorable observation: “Because of the magical quality of speech, the worlds you invoke are likely to appear around you.”

One can only hope that Canadian democracy does not start to appear more like the worlds invoked by the words of Flanagan.

Election in Peru: The Strategy for Humala and Keiko

Elections are all about positioning. There is a basic law in political science called the medium voter theorem: the candidate wins who is located closest to the median voter, provided that the distribution of preferences has a single peak. Most voters in Peru are located in the centre. Invariably, in all recent Peruvian elections, the winning candidates have managed to locate themselves near the median voter.

The two candidates selected for the runoff were Ollanta Humala and Keiko Fujimori. Humala won a lot of votes because he was the only candidate on the center-left (and while the majority is centrist, there are many voters on the left). Keiko benefitted from the fact that the centre-right was divided by three different candidate (what a massive failure of foresight on their part!).

Now, to win the runoff, both candidates must move closer to the centre. That will be the winning strategy, but equally important, it will also define the mandate to govern of the winner.

For more on this, see the excellent report by Robert Kozak:

LIMA, Apr 11, 2011 (Dow Jones Commodities News Select via Comtex) — The two candidates for Peru’s presidency are likely to rush to the center of the political spectrum, attempting to seek allies before a June 5 run off.

The latest official results show left-leaning nationalist Ollanta Humala with 29.3% of the vote and center-right Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori with 22.9%, following Sunday’s general elections.

“For me the issue is whether Humala can move way to the right. He must position himself in the center of the system, and try and keep Keiko far on the right,” said Maxwell Cameron, a political scientist with the University of British Columbia.

“The alternative strategy is to seek to polarize the electorate, but I think that would be unwise,” Cameron, an expert on Peruvian politics, said.

Humala’s pronouncements have raised concerns that any government he led could derail Peru’s spectacular economic growth by imposing an agenda that favors greater state control over the economy.

In 2006, Humala ran on a Socialist platform, but lost to President Alan Garcia. Humala has worked to project more moderate policies since then.

Many Peruvians meanwhile are concerned that any government led by Keiko Fujimori would emulate the corruption-ridden 1990-2000 government led by her jailed father, ex-President Alberto Fujimori.

“The challenge for Mr. Humala is to convince the broader electorate that he has dropped his radical agenda. The challenge for [Keiko] Fujimori is to overcome the divisive gap that her father’s memory still generates in Peru,” said Goldman Sachs economist Eduardo A. Cavallo in a report.

Pre-election polls showed the two candidates would be even in a run off.

“For Keiko Fujimori to gain the majority she will have to reach out to the anti-Fujimori vote. If Humala wants to have more than the 47% he got in 2006, he will have to move to the center,” said Steven Levitsky, a Harvard University professor of government, on RPP radio Monday.

-By Robert Kozak, Dow Jones Newswires; 51-99927 7269;

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-11-11 1304ET

Peru’s general election: Volatile to the end

Fabiola Bazo and Maxwell A. Cameron

From FOCALPoint

When Peruvians gather at the polls on Sunday April 10, 2011, they will choose between 10 candidates for the presidency, and from 13 congressional slates fielding hundreds of candidates to fill 130 legislative seats. Their task will be complicated by the lack of a coherent party system and a large number of candidates. Most of the presidential aspirants are running with candidate-centred electoral vehicles. A second round seems unavoidable.

Photo: © Paolo Aguilar/epa/Corbis
Gana Peru party leader and presidential candidate Ollanta Humala greets supporters during a campaign rally in Lima, Peru, March 24, 2011.

There has been remarkable volatility in Peru’s presidential race over the past three months. Outgoing President Alan García’s Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA) lost its presidential candidate Mercedes Araoz in January when she resigned over the composition of the congressional list. Now the once formidable APRA may be reduced to a rump in the legislature. In addition, the two late front-runners have failed to excite voters and have slipped in the polls. Luis Castañeda Lossio (Solidaridad Nacional), the former mayor of Lima who was considered a favourite a year ago, has been dogged by allegations of corruption. The exquisitely timed release of an audit of his administration in mid-March, combined with his poor performance in presidential debates, helped derail his generally ineffective campaign. Alejandro Toledo (Perú Posible), president from 2001-2006, had also quickly moved to the top of the pack, but faltered toward the end of the race. Keiko Fujimori (Fuerza 2011), a member of congress and the daughter of incarcerated ex-president Alberto Fujimori, has been another serious contender throughout the race, but she has had trouble expanding beyond her core base.

Two previously low-profile candidates have managed to pull up from behind with the decline of Toledo and Castañeda: Ollanta Humala and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. At the end of March, Humala (Gana Perú) took the lead. In 2006, he won the first round of the general election only to be defeated by García in the runoff. This time he has moderated his image and distanced himself from Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez —an association that cost him dearly in that campaign.

Humala has walked a fine line between tapping into the frustrations of those left behind by a decade-long economic boom and trying not to frighten investors. He has worked with advisors from the Brazilian Workers’ Party to cast himself in the mold of successful leader Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. Humala has also benefited from the release of confidential cables from the U.S. Embassy in Lima by Wikileaks, which show how cravenly some of his opponents courted Washington’s help to cause his 2006 defeat. With the resignation of Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros (Fuerza Social) in early March, Humala is now the sole candidate to occupy the left of the political spectrum.

Kuczynski (Alianza por el Gran Cambio) has run on his record as former prime minister and minister of finance for the Toledo administration, competing with his ex-boss for credit as the architect of Peru’s current economic model. Kuczynski’s rise has probably contributed to Toledo’s decline. He has relied on a strong web presence, and met with TV celebrities to bolster his well-financed campaign. His good sense of humor when a woman grabbed him between the legs on the campaign trail has humanized him, especially among youth. However, the buzz around Kuczynski may not translate into votes; right-wing candidates in past elections have been limited in the number of votes they can attract beyond certain social groups.

The remaining five candidates, a collection of colourful characters, failed to collectively garner more than one per cent of voter intentions in most polls. With no candidate remotely close to the 50 per cent mark, a runoff seems unavoidable, though it remains hard to predict who will pass into the second round, as differences among candidates fall within the margin of error. The final stretch will be tense, and may hinge on effective campaigning for the substantial undecided vote.

Overall, without coherent parties this election has lacked distinctive programmatic alternatives, and campaigns have emphasized celebrity and spectacle. In part, this is because the candidates, with the exception of Humala, tend to agree on many issues.

However, Peru’s preferential congressional list system encourages this type of candidate-centred competition, with contenders competing against their peers on the same ticket as much as against rival parties. As a result, campaign spending and advertising often reaches a level of intensity that confuses and annoys voters.

The lack of party organization has resulted in a series of extensively publicized problems within internal primaries, and a lack of quality control in the nomination of candidates. Media reports of allegations regarding the sale of nominations and political donations from drug traffickers have contributed to public cynicism.

Notwithstanding the volatility of the electorate, there are a number of relative constants in Peruvian politics. Most voters are pragmatic centrists and have a penchant for turning the tables on the political establishment. The coast, especially Lima, carries a lot of electoral weight, and support in the south and central highlands, when combined with votes in the coast, can create a powerful bloc of voters.

Humala’s ideological stance has the potential to attract voters for the first round, especially since the right-wing vote is split among several candidates. The result of the runoff, however, will depend on how those who voted for losing candidates in the first round decide to vote in the second. This is a big problem for Fujimori, Humala and Kuczynski, who probably have reached their electoral base. Toledo, for his part, would have a good chance of winning if he can make it into the second round.

As is generally true in Peruvian electoral politics, the best bet is to assume volatility to the end.

Fabiola Bazo is an independent consultant and founder of the “Peru Election 2006” blog. Maxwell A. Cameron co-ordinates the Andean Democracy Research Network in the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the University of British Columbia. The authors are grateful to Steve Levitsky, Cynthia Sanborn and Ann Cameron for comments.

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