Elections: two presidential candidates barred

6 March 2016

With only a month to go the presidential elections, we still don’t know who the candidates are. This is because on 4 March, the Special Electoral Jury (JEE) ruled that two prominent candidates, César Acuña and Julio Guzmán, are not going to be allowed to participate.

In the case of Acuña, he was barred because of accusations of having paid supporters during rallies, something expressly prohibited by the electoral law and carrying as punishment expulsion from the race. In recent weeks, Acuña has faced a number of increasingly difficult challenges stemming not just from charges of having used money to gain votes but evidence of plagiarism.

Acuña has already been ‘punished’ by his steady fall in recent opinion polls and the alacrity with which erstwhile political supporters have jumped ship. His second vice-presidential running mate, Humberto Lay, has pulled out, along with several congressional candidates. In recent days, his first vice-presidential candidate, Anel Townsend, who has repeatedly defended Acuña from his critics, announced she will still run for vice-president but not for Congress.

He has been given two days to present his defence against the JEE ruling, but even if he manages to salvage his candidacy his chances of reaching the second round seem scant.

Very different is the situation of Julio Guzmán who faces a Kafkesque trial in which there is no real clarity in the reasons why he is not being allowed to run. The JEE for Lima and the National Electoral Jury (JNE) have both emitted contradictory verdicts over whether he should be allowed to run or not.

Only a couple of weeks ago he was given the all clear, only to have been told once again that he will not be allowed to run. He too has two days to challenge the verdict, and he has vowed to do so. Guzmán has said he will mobilise street protests if he is barred from running. Having reached second place in the polls and widely viewed as the only candidate able to take on Keiko Fujimori with a chance of winning, the JEE’s decision is viewed by some as politically motivated. The JNE will therefore have a red hot potato in its hands when it adjudicates Guzmán’s appeal.

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