Peru Election 2006

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The Second Round Election in Peru: A Preliminary Overview

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Rapporteur’s Report on a Round Table Discussion at the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP), Lima, June 9, 2006.
Maxwell A. Cameron
June 16, 2006
Photos by J. Bazo

A round table discussion was held at the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP) to assess the process and outcome of the second round of the Peruvian presidential election which was held on June 4, 2006. Martin Tanaka, director of the IEP, and Maxwell A. Cameron, Professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, led off the discussion.
For a summary of Cameron’s comments, click here.
Martin Tanaka said the results of the second round of the election left a strong impression on many observers, yet some aspects of this impression deserve reconsideration in light of the first round. The most powerful image from the second round was a map of a country divided between north and south, and between the coast and the sierra; Ollanta Humala won a majority of Peru’s departments, especially in the south, while Alan Garcia captured the north; Lourdes Flores did best in Lima, and her votes were transferred to Garcia. The geography of the vote created the impression of a powerful fracture along class, region, and ethnic lines, divisions that can be traced to the 19th century and earlier.
Tanaka cautioned against failing to delineate how far this image of a fractured nation holds true, and he argued for examining the election results in both rounds in all their nuance and complexity. When the second round election is placed in context, it reveals both ancient fractures and new cleavages, changes and continuities. In some ways, the results of the second round in 2001 and 2006 are very similar. The vote for Alejandro Toledo and Peru Posible in 2001, and the support for Ollanta Humala and the Union Por el Peru in 2006, are virtual mirror images—though much has rightly been made of the larger standard deviation from the mean in the 2006 election. For example, the extraordinarily high vote for UPP in Ayacucho, 83 percent, is new.
Martin Tanaka
The biggest difference lies in an observation made by Alfredo Torres, head of the APOYO survey firm, prior to the second round. Torres suggested that the voters of Cusco have served as a bellwether for national election results; in Peru’s modern democratic history Cusco has never been on the losing side of an election. This, however, has changed with the 2006 election. Cusco voted for the loser. The election also casts the importance of Lima in a new light. Prior to the first round, some observers emphasized the electoral weight of Lima. While the candidate preferred by a plurality of Lima’s voters, Lourdes Flores, did not make it into the second round, Lima was, nevertheless, decisive in arbitrating between the two candidates who did.
Carmen Rosa Balbi agreed that there was a difference between the first and second rounds of the election, but she perceived the different in terms of how the rise of Ollanta Humala changed the political agenda of the campaign. Until the end of 2005, there was an ostensible consensus on the success of the existing economic model and on the need for continuity in macroeconomic management. Polls appeared to show that there was a center-right majority in the country; some opinion leaders suggested that to question the economic model was irrational. Little by little, during the course of the campaign between January and April, this center-right common sense began to change, producing a modification in the agenda. In part, this change reflected the fact that for part of 2005, Lourdes Flores was the most active and visible candidate on the campaign trail. She set the tone for the election because she was the first to start campaigning; the tone changed when other candidates entered the fray.
Carmen Rosa Balbi
As the campaign unfolded, and Ollanta Humala rose in the polls, the successes of the economic model began to be questioned with increasing insistence. Issues like royalties paid by foreign firms, and the need to audit and review contracts with foreign businesses, were placed on the agenda by Humala, and then picked up by other candidates. There was a notable radicalization of the message delivered by Alan Garcia, who echoed Humala’s insistence on the need to revise contracts with foreign companies. Humala did not win the election, but he did contribute to shifting Peru’s political agenda to the left. The fact that he won 47 percent of the vote suggests a turning point has been reached in Peru.
Alberto Adrianzen agreed with the view that Humala had achieved a lot against great odds. As he put it, “Humala received a very high vote in spite of all those who opposed him: his father, his mother, his brothers, Jaime Bayly and most of the media, APRA, UN, Fujimori, the United States, the Church. Never before has their been such a solid front against a candidate.” The opposition to Humala went so far as to paint him as a “fascist,” or as 21st century Sanchez Cerro. Carmen Rosa Balbi seconded Adrianzen’s criticisms of the media, saying that she could not recall such unfair coverage of a candidate in any previous Peruvian election.
Adrianzen also argued that Lima sank Humala. Remove Lima from Peru, Adrianzen argued, and Humala won the election by about 400,000 votes. Lima gave Garcia the advantage he needed to win. Humala won in the highlands and the jungle. What is more, according to Adrianzen, the people who supported Humala voted for him not as an act of protest or out of bad humour alone: he was the political option for those on the other side of Peru’s geographic, regional, social and economic fractures. In the “Indian stain” (the highland areas inhabited by the indigenous people of Peru), Humala received around 70 percent of the vote. His vote was highest in those areas, like in Ayacucho, where there was the most violence during the war with the Shining Path revolutionary movement. Peru may be witnessing the birth of a new political party, a process reminiscent of the 1930s when APRA emerged. Humala has changed the political map.
Alberto Adrianzen
APPA won with conservative votes, according to Adrianzen. Support for APRA was as high as 86 percent in affluent districts like San Isidro in Lima. APRA won with the votes of those who can be expected to benefit from the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. Fabiola Bazo challenged this view, noting that APRA won in poor districts as well. In fact, APRA won in every singled district of Lima. On one point everyone is agreed: the election was a divisive one, and the level of tension as very high. As a result, there was a decline in blank votes between the first and second rounds, contrary to what many expected, as well as an increase in the number of spoiled votes.
Looking toward the future, Adrianzen predicted “serious opposition,” and not just in parliament. “Happily,” he said, “we’re finished with good manners.” According to Adrianzen, the “good manners” of the political class conceal conflicts and opposed interests. Humala can be expected to push his agenda through a strategy of confrontation that will be unlike in the past, when leaders challenged each other in public and colluded in private. Humala may be more like Evo Morales—with all due recognition for the important differences between Bolivia and Peru.
Marisa Remy noted that Humala had raised his vote between the first and second rounds from 30 to 47 percent; he came within a few points of winning. She noted the diverse projects within his movement.
Marisa Remy
Taylor Boas addressed the issues raised by Max Cameron concerning changes in institutional rules to widen participation in elections, especially for rural voters. He said that changes in rules generally benefits someone and hurt someone else. In a fluid polity like Peru, it may be harder to detect who will benefit from alterations in political rules, and this can facilitate change. In principle, however, it is not hard to see that a change like the elimination of the fine for not voting would probably affect most those for whom the fine matters the most—the poor.
Boas observed the relatively low salience of regionalism in campaign appeals in the election. He said that in election campaigns there are both elements of supply and demand; candidates can emphasize certain cleavages—class or ethnicity, for example—to the detriment of others. In the case of this election, the regional cleavage was not the focus of much of the campaigning. While he agreed with other participants about significant differences across regions in terms of voting results, and that this could be interpreted as a high rather than low salience in the election per se, his point was that differences between regions are also frequently differences between social class or ethnicity, and the latter were the cleavages that candidates actually emphasized during the campaign. Aside from the use of occasional epithets like “the candidate of Miraflores and San Isidro” (which really means candidate of the rich), no one really claimed that they represented the concerns of one region in particular, or that their opponent represented one region in particular.
Boas disagreed with the claim by Balbi concerning the rejection of neoliberalism. He said the economic model has always been part of the debate in Peru, and in the past it has been heavily questioned by the Marxist left. Humala has continued this, with, perhaps, the difference being that he has combined rejection of neoliberalism with anti-system opposition. That is, the “outsider” candidates who have in the past won the votes captured by Humala in this election, Alejandro Toledo and Alberto Fujimori, were advocates of neoliberal politics.
Taylor Boas
Rici Lake agreed with the assertion by Martin Tanaka concerning the similarities between the 2001 and the 2006 elections. In 2001 Peru Posible won about 60 percent of the votes of the south, while in 2006 Humala won closer to 70 percent. The biggest difference is the decline in the number of blank votes. Another major difference is that Toledo won in 2001 thanks to votes from the south, and Fujimori won in 1990 thanks to the same pattern of votes. In 2006, however, the candidate the south supported lost. The political map is not different, it is the same map as before, except that the left has changed. Toledo was elected by the south and failed to deliver his promises to help the south. After this election, the south does not have to oppose its own winner—it can oppose a winner it did not support in the first place.
Jim Rudolph and Rici Lake
Carmen Rosa Balbi agreed with Adrianzen regarding the media bias against Ollanta Humala. She said that the treatment of Humala was unlike anything seen in Peru before. Turning to the prospects for the future, Balbi raised the possibility of an alliance or coalition between APRA and the UPP. Such a coalition would guarantee nearly 90 votes. However, Humala and his inner circle appear inclined to reject the possibility of an alliance and instead seek to lead the opposition to the APRA government; this attitude has begun to produce divisions within UPP (between Carlos Tapia, for example, and Carlos Torres Caro). Balbi suggested that Humala’s refusal to congratulate Garcia on his victory suggests that he does not understand that there is more to this ritual than a “media show.” Peru is a country traumatized by violence. Offering congratulations to the winner is a desirable demonstration of conviviality.
Moreover, Garcia does not represent the right; the specious idea that he won with votes “lent” to him by the right was aptly dismissed by Garcia when he said that his second round votes were lent by the voters not by the right-wing candidate they supported in the first round. An intransigent opposition by Humala would lead to a continuation of polarization in a country in which protest has not been channeled by social movements, where conflict has been expressed politically but remains unorganized socially.
Martin Tanaka took issue with the idea that media bias against a candidate has never been worse than in this election, saying that in the role of the media in 1990 was worse. According to Boas, the worst case, by far, was 2000, when Fujimori’s security advisor Vladimiro Montesinos bought direct government control over the media. The comportment of the media might have been worse in 1990, though it was probably not as clear a case of net bias against one particular candidate.
Tanaka also insisted that the votes for Garcia were not just based on fear of Humala—thought this may have been true for sectors of the elite. Many voters in Lima supported Garcia because they were won over by promises such as the commitment to support microenterprises. Similarly, voters who did not share Humala’s opposition to the Free Trade Agreement with the United States would have been inclined to support Garcia. With respect to the sort of opposition that Humala will build, Tanaka suggested that the jury is still out. It is not yet clear whether his opposition will be loyal.
Alberto Adrianzen argued that the big issue to address for the future is not governability but representation. The task for Humala is to construct an opposition, based on a set of positions distinct from those of the government. The consensus that has to be built in Peru is not one that will be forged in dialogue round tables among technocrats, which have little to do with everyday life for many people. In politics, conflicting positions and interests need to be represented, yet for many Peruvians the systems fails to represent them at all.
Natalia Sobrevilla picked up the issue of the historical cleavages that have divided Peru, arguing that the north south cleavage can be traced to the importance Cusco has retained over time. She suggested, however, that the headway made by Humala in places like Cajamarca in the second round suggest a cleavage that cuts more along the coast versus highlands divide. The south as a region have never really been articulated. There are old rivalries between Cusco and Arequipa, between Tacna and Moquegua, for example. The efforts to create macro-regions stumbled on this reality. Sobrevilla suggested that the elections for regional and municipal governments in November will provide a measure of Humala’s staying power, and whether he has the organization and bases necessary to build a sustained movement.
Natalia Sobrevilla
Sobrevilla also reflected on the ways in which history is used in contemporary politics for various purposes. For example, the effort to “refound the republic” harkens back to most of Peru’s republican history and in this particular case appeals to memories of the confederation. Humala himself has been innocent of much of this, though his father has been more explicit in making historical references. She also stressed the impressive level of support won by Humala in this election, and argued that the 47 percent of the vote won by the UPP candidate was well in excess of the thirds in which the vote has been traditional divided and the quarter of the vote that the right commands.
Marisa Remy responded to Boas’ question regarding the critique of neoliberalism. She argued that neoliberalism has been uncritically accepted for most of the period between about 1990 and 2002. The media are linked to economically powerful groups that have not only muted criticism but have even demonized conflict within the democratic process on over fundamental questions like the viability of the economic model.
Fabiola Bazo wrapped up the discussion with two anecdotes showing how the APRA party is perceived by voters. The first was a conversation with a taxi driver who expressed his intention to vote for APRA because he did well in the first Garcia government as a money exchanger in the blackmarket on “Creole Wall Street.” She also gave an example of residents of San Isidro who were victims of the economic crisis of the late 1980s and, as a result, voted for Humala. These provide illustrations of the complexity of the processes leading to voting decisions.
Fabiola Bazo and Max Cameron
The main conclusions from this round table discussion were:
1. There are important contrasts between the first and second round results. Analysts should be careful about drawing inferences about how the political map has been redrawn based on the results of the first or second round in isolation. There are continuities between the results of both first and second rounds in 2001 and 2006. The biggest difference is that in the 2006 election the south voted for the losing side.
2. The nature of the opposition that will emerge from this election is still uncertain. Humala can be expected to be a tough opponent, provided he has the staying power and can build on the momentum of the election. Whether his opposition will be loyal or not is unclear. That said, conflict is part of democracy and there should be no presumption that only parliamentary opposition is legitimate.
3. There was some disagreement on whether to interpret the victory by Garcia as a victory for the right or the left. On the one hand, Garcia clearly captured right-wing support and his success in Lima tilted the balance in his favor. On the other hand, he won support from across a broad spectrum of voters in Lima and elsewhere. In general, opposition to neoliberalism appears to have intensified in this election largely as a result of the emergence of Humala.
4. Media bias was an issue in this election, though analysts had different views on whether bias was worse than in previous elections. In general, Humala was seen as having performed exceptionally well given his treatment by the media.
5. Analysts confront a major challenge to sort out the continuities and differences between this and previous elections. It is often said that Peru is a fractured nation, yet the specific fault lines, like tectonic plates, bear stress and shift in often unpredictable ways. This preliminary round table could only touch on some of the key questions. Further research, involving systematic and interdisciplinary efforts, will be necessary to decipher all the hidden lessons from this important electoral process.

Written by Michael Ha

June 16th, 2006 at 6:21 pm

Posted in Analysis & Opinion

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