Peru Election 2006

The archived version

The Impact of the Second Round Campaign

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Maxwell A. Cameron
June 1, 2006

Political scientists often debate whether campaigns matter. A lot of campaign activity seems to have little impact, but some political scientists insist that candidates can prime voters and frame issues in ways that influence how people vote.
The election in Peru this year offers an example of when campaigns matter, and when they do not. The first round showed how a front-running candidate, Lourdes Flores, could lose her lead and ultimately fail to place in a runoff as a result of her inability to respond to campaign dynamics such as the rise of an outsider candidate, Ollanta Humala, and the polarization that produced. Alan Garcia proved more able to exploit the rise of Humala, offering himself as a better opponent to challenge Humala in the second round.
The second round has demonstrated the limits of campaign activity. As soon as it became clear that Flores was out of contention, the bulk of her vote went to Garcia. In spatial terms, the reason is obvious: Garcia is located near the median voter, while Humala is closer to the left. Most of Flores’ voters are in the center of the right of the spectrum. In geographical terms, the reason is equally obvious: Garcia took the north while Humala took the south. This biggest block of voters up for grabs were in Lima, on the coast. In the north-south cleavage that divides Peru, Lima is closer to the north than the south.
As a consequence, the polls have shown no movement in the candidates’ support for most of May. According to APOYO, Garcia has hovered around 55 percent; Humala is around 45 percent. That said, a recent APOYO vote simulation poll placed the two candidates in a technical tie. It would seem that there are a lot of hidden supporters of Humala, voters who are not telling pollsters for whom they will vote.
The stability of voter preferences has not been altered by the main campaign events. The main events have been:
– Flores accepted defeat saying she had lost not in the ballot boxes but in the vote scrutinizing and counting process.
– The campaign has been internationalized by comments by Hugo Chavez who has criticized Alan Garcia and offered support for Humala.
– Polemical comments have been made by elected officials—including the president and former president Alberto Fujimori—as well as by Vladimiro Montesinos.
The campaign has been dirty rather than polarized, with constant “counter-campaign” activity, a bout of violence in Cusco and bitter personal attacks between the candidates. Humala seeks to dislodge Garcia by attacking his credibility while Garcia seeks to cast Humala as a dangerous and violent threat to Peru’s stability. It is hard to know whether these attacks will have an impact on the large number of voters who plan to cast blank or null ballots, or will win over undecided voters. There seems to be a growing mood of disenchantment with both candidates, and this will probably benefit Humala. While Garcia is still the most likely candidate to win, the growing sense seems to be that the race will be tighter than anticipated.

Written by Michael Ha

June 1st, 2006 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Analysis & Opinion

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