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PERU
No clear scenario for election
Cecilia Remón
4/5/2011
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Five presidential candidates in technical tie.

Once again, Peruvians are set to go to the polls in a presidential election marked by indecision and uncertainty.

According to recent polls, five candidates have a near-equal shot at making it to the second-round runoff, following the April 10 vote.

Twenty million Peruvians are expected to chose among four pro-free market candidates, including former President Alejandro Toledo, who governed from 2001-2006, and a nationalist lead who narrowly lost Peru´s 2006 election to Alan García.

Toledo´s former finance minister, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, has been the biggest surprise, coming in fourth place in voter intent, according to a March 28 survey by the Peruvian Marketing and Public Opinion Studies Company, or CPI. He trailed nationalist Ollanta Humala, who had just over 23 percent, and Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori with nearly 21 percent. Her father, former President Alberto Fujimori, is currently in jail for human rights violations during his authoritarian 1990-2000 regime.Lima´s former mayor, Luis Castañeda, trailed with 17 percent.

More of the same
Four candidates with the exception of Humala have advocated a continuation of free market policies that Alberto Fujimori started in Peru in the 1990s.

The most notable example is Kuczynski, who has shot up in the polls in recent weeks, largely in the capital Lima, where one-third of the electorate is based. He is largely credited with Peru´s economic growth during Toledo´s government, although he has been criticized for becoming a dual citizen of the United States and Peru in the 1980s to work as a banking executive in the US. Critics also say that he represents the interests of transnational companies.

Humala, candidate of the Gana Peru alliance, composed of his Nationalist Party and several left-leaning parties, has been accused of maintaining ties to Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. An alleged tie to Chavez cost Humala the 2006 election, some analysts have said.

“I´m a nationalist because we are going to recover our natural resources,” said Humala. He has advocated higher mining royalties and taxes, which he says could be a major source of income for the country, a top producer of gold, silver, copper, zinc and other metals. “We will invest this money in high-quality education.”

“Peru lives off the sale of these natural resources,” he said. “Peru has resigned ownership of natural resources. It has resigned sovereignty. The economic model is not sustainable because it depends on international markets. This is the moment to diversify the economy by taking advantage of growth.”

Widespread discontent
For some analysts, Humala´s rise in the polls is another testament to successive governments´ inability to ensure that economic growth reaches all sectors as poverty still affects around one-third of Peru´s nearly 29 million people.

Economist Humberto Campodónico said that while the gross domestic product grew 32 percent during Toledo´s 2001-2006 government, it did not reach most of society and these sectors “manifested their discontent by voting for Humala, who was close to winning the presidential election.”

Over the past decade, the economy expanded 73 percent, but the minimum wage only rose 46 percent — or US$150 to $215, Campodónico noted.

“Perhaps what most bothers the population is listening each day about how any fulfillment of their needs is immediately denounced as ‘an attack on the economic model´ and as a result, they´re impossible to be fulfilled,” he added.

Humala´s rise in the polls has been blamed for a weakening of Peru´s currency, the sol, and a drop in the local stock market, an accusation which some have dubbed “financial terrorism.”

Campodónico points to a recent report by Barclays Bank that recommended their clients buy dollars ahead of a potential win by Humala in the first round. “Do note that this is not the first time Barclays is practicing this ‘financial terrorism,´” he said.
Last September, when now-Mayor Susana Villarán was gaining in the polls on her center-left Social Force movement ahead of the municipal elections, Barclays said Peru was financially rattled.

The result is a fear campaign, he said, which targets, above all, the poorest Peruvians, warning that an Humala win would mean high inflation and political instability, two concepts familiar to citizens who lived through hyperinflation, economic crisis and near-political collapse in the 1980s and parts of the 1990s.

Meanwhile, there are no guarantees for any candidate. “There is no clear scenario a few days away from the elections,” said Fernando Tuesta, director of the Public Opinion Institute at the Pontificate Catholic University of Peru. “While the final result is in the hands of the candidates and their campaigns and the electorate´s changing mood,” no candidate is expected to gain a majority in Congress.

“The one who wins in the second round will only have a fictitious majority,” he said. “The result will be a president with minority support, incapable of making necessary changes ... for a skeptical electorate ready to disapprove of the results of their vote.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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