Tanaka's election take

7 May 2016

The election campaign has been full of surprises, and more may be in store. This was the central message of a talk given by Martín Tanaka to Peruvian students in Oxford this week. Martín, a political scientist at the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos and at the Universidad Católica, has been a close observer of the campaign through his weekly column at the La República newspaper.

Polls still put Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Keiko Fujimori neck and neck in voter preferences. A GfK poll this week put Kuczynski marginally ahead with 50.1% to Keiko’s 49.9%. For Tanaka, the surprise was to see Kuczynski doing so well. “I was expecting to see Keiko out in front” he says, on the basis of her party’s organisation and her campaigning skills. “You wouldn’t expect Veronika Mendoza’s voters to opt for PPK” he says, since the south (which is where Mendoza did best) tends to vote against Lima, “At least you would expect her vote to split”.

Tanaka says that it looks as though the outcome will depend on the mistakes that the two candidates commit over the next month. He sees Fujimori’s campaign strategy tilting away from that of the first round towards a more explicit appeal to conservative values. In the last week she has taken up cudgels on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, distinguishing herself from the more ‘liberal’ Kuczynski and pitching for the votes of evangelicals and conservative Catholics. Her comments on repealing legislation on illegal mining (see PSG article) also point in this direction.

Another big surprise was the strength of the Fujimori vote for Congress, where Fuerza Popular achieved an absolute majority: 73 seats out of 130. “The Fujimori vote is very broad, all over the country” Tanaka says, and based on “a skilful operation in selecting as candidates leaders with a strong regional following”. The establishment of a Fujimorista party contrasts with Alberto Fujimori’s refusal to build a political party. “Assuming he wins, this means that PPK will have to make an agreement with the Fujimoristas if he is to govern”, he asserts, “he will have to ask permission for every piece of legislation he puts forward”.

Tanaka takes the view that a Fujimori government would not necessarily be a repeat of the sort of government that prevailed under her father in the 1990s. “But it will be a government “full of contradictions” in which there would be a struggle for power between ‘fujimorismo renovado’ and the ‘fujimorismo tradicional’.

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