Peru Election 2006

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Top Ten Issues at Stake in the Election Tomorrow

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Maxwell A. Cameron
June 3, 2006

Much is at stake in the second round of the presidential election to be held in Peru on June 4. How will analysts interpret a victory by one or another of the two candidates?
A victory for Alan Garcia would mean:
1. The polling companies are doing their job
2. The median voter theorem works in Peru
3. Political parties matter
4. Responsible opposition is rewarded
5. The public has partially rejected the economic model, but wishes to retain some elements
6. The south will be governed by the north and Lima
7. The congress will be closed legally
8. Peru-Chile relations will be based on competition
9. Peru will be closer to Brazil, and this will favor Lula
10. The existing electoral democracy has a chance of consolidation
A victory for Ollanta Humala would mean:
1. The polling companies got it wrong
2. The median voter does not like the candidate who occupied the center
3. Voters prefer “outsiders”
4. Voters want change in the economic model
5. The public could not forgive Garcia
6. The north and Lima have lost their gravity
7. A constituent assembly will be convened
8. Peru-Chile relations will be based on rivalry
9. Peru will be closer to Venezuela, which will favor Chavez
10. The existing electoral democracy will undergo rapid transformation
The Polls: All publishable polls (Peruvian law prohibits the publication of polls one week before the election, and we respect this law) have pointed to an APRA victory, albeit by a narrow margin in some cases. A victory for Humala would mean that the polling companies failed to detect the hidden vote, and that the roughly 20 percent of the electorate that the polling companies rarely reach went overwhelmingly for Humala. Alternatively, a large shift in public opinion—probably driven by last-minute considerations by undecided voters or voters who had been planning to cast blank or spoiled ballots—altered the outcome at the very end of the campaign.
The Median Voter: Garcia occupied the center of the spectrum, while Humala failed to shift decisively toward the center in the second round. His message did not become significantly more radical, but he did not moderate his tone either. If the candidate closest to the average voter loses, this means that the average voter repudiated the candidate whose policy preferences are most similar to her own. The most obvious reason for this to happen would be a repudiation of the candidate for other reasons—in this case, negative views of Garcia would be the most obvious explanation.
Parties: A victory by Garcia would mean a victory for the party system. Alan Garcia campaigned as the leader of a political party with seven decades of history behind it. Moreover, the APRA party has acted like a responsible opposition for the past five years. It could have tried to overthrow Toledo, or otherwise obstructed his government as opposition parties have done in the past. Legislative opposition is a proving ground for leaders, and APRA has shown discipline in opposition. By contrast, Humala’s opposition has been anti-systemic. He adopted the Union for Peru after failing to register his own party. His most significant acts of opposition have been the uprisings in Locumba (and in Andahuaylas, though Humala has distanced himself from this rebellion). In the first round he hinted that a victory by Lourdes Flores would result in democratic instability, and suggested she would be removed from office before completing her term. If Humala loses, he will have to decide what kind of opponent he wants to be. His immediate reaction to defeat could be decisive in shaping his career in opposition, and a narrow margin of victory could set him on a course of confrontation.
Radical versus “responsible” change: It has been said that the winner of this election will be the candidate who is most able to voice discontent with the status quo. Lourdes Flores’ failure to hold onto her early lead in the first round campaign largely reflected her inability to tap into the angry mood among voters. The question is: how deep is the anger? Garcia casts himself as a harbinger of change, but he is still an insider. His campaign lemma was “responsible change.” A victory for Garcia will be read as a partial repudiation of the current economic model, and a move toward a more populist alternative. A victory for Humala would be a more forceful repudiation of the economic model.
Governing the South: A Garcia government will need to overcome its northern and Limeno roots and find ways of governing and including the south. This election has pitted north against south, with the central battle ground being Lima. Garcia has done a better job of appealing to Lima for votes, but it is not clear that he has made inroads into the south. Someone said that in the debate Garcia talked to Lima; Humala to the rest of the country. If Humala wins, this will confirm the old rule that whoever wins Cusco wins in the rest of the country. If he loses, the rules have changed.
Congress: Neither APRA nor UPP control the congress alone. Humala has announced plans to introduce a constituent assembly. There are no guarantees that he will do so according to established constitutional practices, which are precarious in Peru. Garcia has also announced plans to close congress should he fail to get a mandate to implement his program. When politicians talk about closing congress on the campaign trail, especially given the nation’s recent history, they should be taken seriously. APRA and UPP could always try to work together for constitutional change, but there are political logics of competition and fragmentation that may militate against this.
Chile: Whereas Garcia treats Chile as a competitor to be bested, Humala regards Chile as a threat to be deterred. Chileans will sleep more peacefully if Garcia is elected; they will be alarmed if Humala wins.
Chavez: The idea of “axes” of left-wing alternatives (one radical populist, the other social democratic) is not particularly helpful for understanding the current choices facing Peruvians. Humala is not as radical as Chavez; Garcia is not as social democratic as Lula. A victory for Humala would, however, contribute to an expansion of influence for Chavez, who has become increasingly assertive. If Garcia is elected, Peru will balance Venezuela and swing closer to Brazil. It is ironic that Garcia is now seen as a counter-weight to radical change, given that his first term in office was characterized by strongly anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchic rhetoric and policy. Populism has its many “moments,” as Marxists are wont to say.
Democracy: In a democracy, there are winners and losers. In a consolidated democracy, the losers accept defeat, knowing they will have another chance to win in the future. Both APRA and UPP have to think about the possibility of defeat in terms of future elections. For APRA, a defeat would mean the extinction of the current generation of Aprista leaders. Alan Garcia would become APRA’s “historic” leader, and the next five years would need to be devoted to cultivating new blood. There are good reasons to expect APRA would do this well. Many observers believe that Humala entered the campaign without expecting to do as well has he has. His movement has been alluvial, not incremental, in growth. A presidential defeat would probably result in a splintering of the UPP, at least after the regional and municipal elections in the fall if not before. Not only will Humala need to struggle to hold his party together in congress, he will have to find a way of channeling the frustration of his supporters—voters in the south, reservists—into the democratic system. He may well look to Evo Morales for inspiration. Morales won the presidency after a prolonged struggle, not only in the electoral arena, but also on the terrain of social movement struggles for control over land, water, and natural resources.

Written by Michael Ha

June 3rd, 2006 at 8:51 am

Posted in Analysis & Opinion

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