Battle lines drawn

1 May 2016

In the three weeks since the first round, both Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Keiko Fujimori are attempting to delineate their battle lines. Both have tried to present themselves as having some ideas in common with the Frente Amplio that nearly made it into the run-off.

Fujimori has taken as her own such issues as the re-negotiation of gas contracts, trying to present herself to the left of Kuczynski who was the person who originally signed those contracts. She is aiming to build on the more populist policies deployed by her father to propel herself towards the presidency. She has spoken about redistribution and is keen to be seen as being closer to the people than Kuczynski, a quintessential figure of the Peruvian elite. There are some parallels here with her father’s tactics when he beat Mario Vargas Llosa in the 1990 elections by appealing to rural and poor voters.

Kuczynski, on the other hand, has declared that he will provide compensation to the women who were forcibly sterilised in the 1990s, and that he will support those who lost family members during the armed conflict. He met with their representatives during a visit to Ayacucho on 22 April. It is crucial for him to turn the election into a referendum on Fujimori, just as Ollanta Humala managed to do in 2011. The issue of the forced sterilisations has once again taken centre stage as Keiko Fujimori attempts to minimize her father’s involvement, accusing doctors of being ultimately responsible (a charge the medical profession vehemently rejects). Once again this is an issue likely to polarise the election. In the past decade victims’ groups have become increasingly vocal, with the support of feminists and activists.

Veronika Mendoza has not endorsed either of the second-round candidates, but has given her full backing to the ‘No to Keiko’ campaign. She has met with the organisers of this movement and declared in no uncertain terms that the battle ahead is a battle against Fujimorismo. Although this is not a direct endorsement of Kuczynski, it is as close to it as she will probably go.

In the coming weeks the movement against Keiko Fujimori will become more and more important as there is a large section of the population convinced that this is the main issue in contention. This should work to Kuczynski’s advantage, and the notion is widespread that null and void votes simply work to the advantage of Fujimori.

Sociologist Julio Cotler has declared as much in a recent interview. He notes the risks of having a government in which the Fujimoristas control not just the executive but also the legislature (see PSG article). He expresses fears that this could become a dynastic (or sultanistic) regime with Kenji Fujimori having now declared his intention to run in 2021, whether or not Keiko wins. Cotler also points out that the question of freeing Alberto Fujimori from jail will become more pressing, as if Keiko frees him as president he may effectively take over as the genuine leader of Fujimorismo (see PSG article on Fujimorismo).

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