Guzman's candidacy put on ice

20 February 2016

Although not yet formally barred from participating in the presidential elections, Julio Guzmán’s candidacy has been put on ice, and there is growing concern in Lima that he may not be allowed to participate.

The National Electoral Jury (Jurado Nacional de Elecciones) decided on 16 February by three-votes-to-two that Guzmán’s Party ‘Todos Para Perú’ (All for Peru or TPP) had failed to follow proper procedures when presenting his candidacy. A special electoral tribunal upheld the JNE’s ruling on 19 February. Bello, the Latin American commentator for The Economist, published this week, noted the dangers of allowing secondary legislation to take precedent over people’s right to choose whomever they please.

This line of reasoning has been swiftly repeated in Lima. Seasoned journalist Gustavo Gorriti, who in the 1990s spent time as a captive in the underground offices of Vladimiro Montesinos’s National Intelligence Service (SIN), has strongly denounced what he sees as the possibility of fraud. He sees Guzmán as the only candidate able to stop Keiko Fujimori winning the presidency. He implies that dark forces may be at work in the JNE. He has called for the population to be vigilant, as they were when Keiko’s father, Alberto Fujimori, sought re-re-election in 1999 and 2000. He sees similar strategies being used again. His article, published in Caretas, has spread like wildfire on the internet.

Another of the candidates, Renzo Reggiardo, has now decided to withdraw from the race, alleging that the contest lacks legitimacy. His detractors say he is doing this because his polling support is less than 1%. He has chosen, however, to make a public stance on the Guzmán issue and on 19 December he appeared on television with the rest of his running mates handcuffed, asking for all the other candidates who have committed irregularities to be investigated.

Also late on the 19 February, Guzmán’s party was notified that the Special Electoral Jury (JEE) for Lima had decided that his candidacy was inadmissible as officially presented, but giving him two calendar (not working) days to rectify the administrative errors. Opinion on whether he has been given a life raft or a poisoned chalice is divided. Will it be possible to correct all the errors during a weekend, or has this deadline been set in such a way as to make it impossible to comply? We should know by next week whether Guzmán remains in the race.

It is difficult to assess what the impact of this Guzmán episode will be. It has cast aspersions on the role played by the JNE and has raised questions as to its impartiality. This could prove very damaging for the legitimacy of the result. It remains the case, however, that Fujimori is still the candidate to beat, and that the prospect of her possible victory will be polarising in what remains of the campaign. Guzmán, in turn, has passed in the space of ten days from being an unknown to becoming a household name.

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