Election: Keiko Fujimori fighting not to be excluded

20 March 2016

With just three weeks to go until election day, it is even still unclear who will be the participants. And the more days pass, the more responsibility the electoral authorities will have to shoulder for what seems to many a shambolic situation.

The eruption of anti-Fujimori sentiment in the public arena – with further mobilizations last week in Lima – and the difficulties Keiko Fujimori is facing due to accusations of vote-buying just add further tension to the electoral process, one that has so far had more than its fair share of surprises.

Still polling at over 30%, only a few days ago the daughter of the jailed ex-president had seemed unassailable and sure to make it to the second round. But such certainties have evaporated once the Special Electoral Jury (JEE) in Lima made moves yesterday to disqualify her candidacy.

Since Cesar Acuña was excluded for giving money to voters, calls to exclude Keiko Fujimori have steadily grown. It has become ever harder for her to distance herself from the money that was given to those present at a party event on 14 February: a video has now surfaced in which it is clear that Keiko knew that money was being distributed. Her defenders point out that there is no evidence that the cash came directly from her or that she personally handed it over. The law, however, is clear on this point: being at an event where money is given out is enough to invalidate a candidacy.

The problem that emerges from all this is one of electoral legitimacy. If Keiko Fujimori is excluded from the election, it would mean that around a third of the electorate would be left without a first-choice candidate. Added to the fact that Julio Guzmán and Acuña were together polling well in excess of 20%, it means that a good deal more than half of the electorate would have to choose their second or even third option.

The winners from this confusion are Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (Peru por el Kambio), Alfredo Barnechea (Acción Popular) and Verónika Mendoza (Frente Amplio). All three have seen their preferences rise in the polls over the last week. Mendoza has gone on record saying she is unhappy with the exclusion of candidates because the contest should be open to all. Barnechea has not said much about it, while Kuczynski has said that Fujimori should not be excluded.

It is thus far from clear what is going to happen on 10 April, and endemic voter volatility is likely to become ever more pronounced.

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