Elections: photo finish in first round

9 April 2016

Peruvians go to the polls this Sunday, 10 April. As we went to press, it was still far from clear who would be participating in the probable run-off on 5 June.

In spite of a comfortable lead, with around 33%, Keiko Fujimori was unlikely to obtain the 50% +1 to prevent a run-off. The race for second place looked like being neck-and-neck between investor-friendly Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) and leftist congresswoman from Cuzco, Verónika Mendoza.

While it was illegal to publish polls in Peru during the last week before election day, those circulating privately showed Mendoza and Kuczynski level-pegging with about 17% each. The main difference between them was that Mendoza’s poll support was rising rapidly, PPK’s less so.

Mendoza seemed better placed to capitalise on the still-undecided vote, especially among women and the young. Her promises of change also seemed likely to strike more of a chord among the politically disenchanted.

This is reminiscent of the 2011 and 2006 elections when the candidates promising change made it into the second round against more centre-right rivals.

Negative sentiment against Fujimori is also growing, with 51% of the voting public declaring they would ‘never’ vote for her. Anti-fujimorismo was to the fore on 5 April when upwards of 50,000 people took to the streets of Lima, and cities elsewhere in Peru and worldwide, to register their rejection of the coup by Alberto Fujimori, Keiko’s father, on 5 April 1992.

Nor has Keiko been able to capitalise on the forced withdrawal from the race of two prominent candidates, César Acuña and Julio Guzmán. While she faces strident opposition, PPK and Mendoza have both seen their fortunes improve in recent weeks. The former returned to second place having previously trailed downwards following Acuña and Guzmán’s exit, whereas Mendoza has seen her voting intentions rocket from near the bottom of the pile to be such as to make her a real challenger for second place.

PPK, the former finance minister and presidential hopeful in 2011, argues that he will have the edge when defeating Keiko Fujimori in a run-off, but many consider that there is not much policy difference between the two. PPK, it is remembered, endorsed Keiko in 2011. According to an article in the New York Times on 7 April, Keiko and Verónika would be level-pegging in a second round http://mobile.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/04/08/world/americas/08reuters-peru-election-ipsos.html?smid=fb-share&referer=http://m.facebook.com

Time will tell if this is to be the first-ever run-off between two women, guaranteeing that history is made with the election of Peru’s first female president. For those keen to learn the results as they happen, exit polls will be published at around 4pm Lima time (10pm BST) on Sunday, with official results coming through that evening and into the early hours of Monday.

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