26 July 2015
On Tuesday July 28, President Ollanta Humala will give his final message to Congress and the nation, amid all the pomp and ceremony that normally accompanies this anniversary of Peru’s declaration of independence in 1821. Humala, who is constitutionally barred from standing for re-election in 2016, enters is his last year a much-weakened figure. Opinion polls variously suggest that his support has been eroded to between 10% and 18% of the population.
Two days before on Sunday, the Congress elected an opposition politician, Luis Iberico, to preside over its business for the 2015-16 period. Iberico was supported by the right-wing bloc made up of Fuerza Popular and APRA. This is the first time that the ruling party, which has suffered a significant number of defections among its congressmen, has failed to ensure that one of its number is elected president. The opposition parties will now have a stronger grip over how parliamentary business is conducted over the next year, potentially pitting the legislature against the executive.
The next twelve months will inevitably be dominated by the drawn out electoral process. This will almost certainly involve two rounds of presidential elections, the first in April. Leading candidates, including Keiko Fujimori (the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori), Alan García (twice former president), Alejandro Toledo (another former president) and Pedro Pablo Kuzcynski (a former economy minister and prime minister) have already begun campaigning, irrespective of formal niceties over how their parties are supposed to select their presidential candidates.
All four represent the centre-right or far right and will seek to vie for supremacy by casting as much bile as they can muster against Humala and the first lady Nadine Heredia. It remains unclear who will be the candidate for Humala’s Nationalist Party (PNP), riven by internal divisions, but the former interior minister Daniel Urresti has already begun campaigning. A right-wing populist, Urresti, a former army commander faces allegations of murder when on active service in Ayacucho in the 1990s.
The left remains divided and poorly placed to capitalise on widespread disaffection with Humala’s failure to honour the left-of-centre agenda on which he was elected in 2011. Since the 1990s, the left has been reduced to pockets of protest, especially around extractive industries, but has failed to recover any of its former protagonism (in the 1980s) as a powerful force in national politics. The only two parties that currently enjoy electoral registration are Marco Arana’s Tierra y Libertad and Yehude Simón’s Partido Humanista.
The outcome of next year’s election is thus far from clear. Although Keiko Fujimori enters the race in pole position (with 30% support according to some polls), it is by no means clear that she will win. Kuczynski remains hopeful that he will make it into the second round, capitalising on support among upper and middle-class voters. Both García and Toledo remain hobbled by investigations into allegations of corrupt behaviour but maybe will be able to shake these off. Corruption is likely to be a leitmotiv of the campaign. There remains speculation as to possible ‘dark horse’ candidates emerging, but little clarity about who these might be.