Campaign: plagiarism charges could impact on Acuña

1 February 2016

With several new opinion polls due to be published in the immediate future, it looks like being an important week ahead in the race for the presidency. The fight for the middle ground separating Keiko Fujimori (who continues to lead the pack on around 30%) and the relatively large numbers of ‘also rans’ (on or below 3%) is intensifying.

The biggest political story of last week arose from revelations that César Acuña had plagiarised part of his doctoral dissertation at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, as well as his masters thesis at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. Both universities have started investigations and some of the authors whose work was apparently plagiarised have declared that the plagiarism was brazen.

Questions have also been raised about his other masters degree from the Universidad de Lima whilst his student records at the Universidad de Trujillo show he barely passed his final exams and that he may have obtained his degree fraudulently. Some have called on him to withdraw his candidacy from the presidential race, while others have asked for him to be ruled out because he apparently falsified his declaration to the authorities that he had these university degrees. Neither has so far happened.

Acuña has declared that this is just part of a campaign to derail his presidential quest, in spite of what he admits to have been “some errors of citation”. The press has focused its attention on these charges over the last week, but it is unclear how much of an impact this will have on Acuña’s apparent popularity among lower income-earners.

Two other candidates are likely to come under close observation as to their ability to rise up the popularity ranking. Julio Guzmán (see PSG article) has managed to open up a lead between himself and some of the ‘also rans’, partly because of his ability to market himself as a younger and more Peruvian version of Pedro Pablo Kuzcynski. His ability to sustain that upward movement will be closely watched. Another candidate who may have managed to promote his image is Alfredo Barnechea, the candidate for Acción Popular. Barnechea has created favourable headlines by openly questioning the contracts by which Peruvian natural gas is exported at very unfavourable prices. This is an issue of substance that certainly rankles with the voting public who have to pay much more for their gas supplies.

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