Peru goes to the polls in three days time, on Sunday 10th April 2011.
Elections for the 120 seat Congress of the Republic have been overshadowed by the presidential election campaign that will take place on the same day. The likely outcome will be inconclusive, and whoever is the next President of Peru is likely to have to do a lot of horse trading with a mixed group of political parties represented in the unicameral chamber.
As for the presidential election, that looks certain to go to a second round runoff on 5th June, with no candidate dominating the first round.
At the start of the presidential race there were five main candidates led by Alejandro Toledo who looked unassailable on nearly 40% of the vote.
As the campaign swung into motion the Toledo bandwagon started to slow and as we reach the end of the campaign he is vying with two other candidates for second place, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former minister in Toledo’s previous government (better known as PPK) and Keiko Fujimori the daughter of ex president Alberto Fujimori.
One candidate now seems to be out of the race, Luis Castañeda, a former mayor of Lima.
The fifth candidate is the dark horse and, to many people, the anti-establishment figure. Ollanta Humala was the losing candidate in the second round runoff in 2006 to the current president Alan Garcia. He is the frontrunner in this election and almost certain to be one of the two candidates in the second round runoff.
An ex army officer and friend of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela (although he has distanced himself in recent times) his manifesto sets a strong left win approach to government. Whereas the other four candidates all wish to see a continuation of the current economic policies the Humala manifesto seeks a much more state interventionist approach.
It is this difference which was at the centre of the final debate between the five candidates last Sunday 3rd April. The four centrists candidates were keen to attack Humala’s left wing policies, something which the newspapers have been accused of doing and which even the current president couldn’t resist. Those constant attacks throughout the campaign could well be the reason why Humala has risen so quickly in the polls.
Fellow candidates were not the only ones to show nervousness at Humala’s possible election, even the financial markets have proven to be increasingly volatile in recent weeks. Opponents say that Humala’s statist agenda would lose Peru $40 billion in foreign investment.
The debate on Sunday centred on one core issue, the constitution. Although Humala’s manifesto talks about changing the constitution he is not so keen to answer questions on the subject. In the televised debate he also avoided questions on his policies towards nationalisation, giving the state more of a role in the economy; and then there are the tricky issues of his supposed involvement in torture when he was an army officer.
It was Toledo, in a pre debate interview, who identified the most likely reason for Ollanta Humala’s rise in the opinion polls. Toledo stated that Humala was doing well because ‘we have not redistributed the resources properly’, a reference to the thriving economy but one in which a third of the population is still living in poverty.
The last opinion polls were published last weekend in accordance with Peruvian election law. More than a quarter of voters were still undecided and Peruvians are well known for changing their minds at the last minute.
It looks like we shall have to wait until 5th June to know who will be running Peru for the next five years.