Peru Election 2006

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Traditional Politicians, Apristas, and Outsiders

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Why Ollanta Humala may be more than a flash in the pan
By Maxwell A. Cameron
November 30, 2005

Aristotle said man is a political animal. There are many diverse families in the political animal kingdom. In Peru, three often contend for power at election time.
The first is the traditional, establishment politician. The traditional politician is the representative of those who live in the affluent districts of Lima, mainly San Isidro and Miraflores. In these two districts we find the greatest concentration of wealthy professionals and entrepreneurs, and in any election there will be candidates who are funded and backed by this sector. Today, most of these voters lean toward Lourdes Flores Nano.
The second political animal is the Aprista. This is Peru’s only organized and truly national political party, and while support for APRA has diminished over the past decade it retains a small but disciplined following and has made efforts to renew itself.
Finally, there are the outsiders. In every election candidates arise who seek to represent those who are not represented. They appeal to the shantytowns and the provinces, to the marginalized and the excluded. Examples include Ricardo Belmont, Alberto Fujimori, Alejandro Toledo and now Ollanta Humala.
Peru has an electorate that tends to be centrist, with a substantial fraction distributed to the left and a smaller share on the right. The most successful politicians have tended to be those able to win broad multi-class support, and thus occupy the center. For the outsider, that means doing what Fujimori did: build a base on the majority of voters who feel no attachment either to APRA or traditional parties, and then win over supporters across the spectrum. That is Humala’s challenge.
The challenge for the Aprista leader has always been to appeal beyond the party’s core constituency. This Garcia did brilliantly in 1985, and again with considerable success in 2001. Right now, the support for APRA remains sectarian, but that could change. The difficulty will be overcoming Garcia’s negative ratings.
Although Lourdes Flores is currently the front-runner, in many ways her challenge is the most difficult. She needs to break out of the social isolation of the elite in Lima, to be seen not as an ally of establishment politicians or a snob (pituca), but as someone who can establish a rapport with voters in the provinces and among the nation’s excluded masses. She has to do this without compromising her base in the elite or abandoning her conservative economic policies.
One of the key difference between this and previous elections is that the outsider candidate has been activated earlier in the process—in fact, even before the start of formal campaigning. For some analysts, this creates a problem for Humala. He will have to endure over four grueling months of campaigning against a political establishment that will line up against him. And he will have to fight for votes with Garcia, who is experienced and Machiavellian. At the same time, however, the early rise of Humala might be an indicator of the higher level of politicization of today’s Peruvian voters.
It may well be the case that the terror caused by the Shining Path in the 1980s and 1990s has receded just enough to allow Peruvian voters to start to express more openly their discontent with the established order and its political representatives. This includes placing ethnic politics on the electoral map. In that sense, Peru is beginning to move in the direction of Bolivia and Ecuador, where popular mobilizations and indigenous symbolism have become a fixed part of political life. If the staying power of Evo Morales is any indication, Humala may be more than a flash in the pan.

Written by Michael Ha

November 30th, 2005 at 9:17 am

Posted in Analysis & Opinion

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