CADE showcases candidates, proposals

5 December 2015

With the leading party leaders sharing much the same basic right-of-centre ideologies, their presidential candidates were at pains to try to distinguish themselves at CADE. The event marks the real beginning of presidential campaigning (see recent PSG article).

The five candidates leading the polls (Keiko Fujimori, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, César Acuña, Alan García and Alejandro Toledo) were invited to the annual executive’s conference (CADE 2015) in Paracas to introduce themselves and to set out their stall. After a day of set-piece speeches and less than incisive questioning by panels of experts, most business leaders and those watching at home on television were probably not much convinced one way or the other.

The main issues covered involved how to return Peru to a higher growth path, how to achieve better educational standards, what to do about citizen insecurity and corruption, the need to improve transport infrastructure, how to reduce the degree of informality, and what to do to achieve greater economic diversification. With an eye to the audience in front of them, no candidate deviated far from the basic liberal economy script and maintenance of a non-interventionist (but more effective) state.

There was no left-wing candidate invited to present a different agenda. There was little mention of either human rights issues, the welfare of indigenous communities, or the need to improve standards of environmental observance (in spite of COP21 in Paris).

So far as the personalities are concerned, the biggest challenges were probably those facing Acuña and García. Acuña needed to move up the scale of voting intentions if he is to emerge as a candidate with any chance of making it into the second round. His performance at CADE probably did him no favours; his speech was ponderously read from a written text enumerating a long list of discrete proposals. García, who urgently needs to reverse his falling voting intentions, put on a polished oration (even by his own high standards). But style apart, the gist of what he had to say – that only he had the leadership qualities to required to return growth to 6% per annum – was probably less convincing.

Fujimori, who enjoys a comfortable lead in the opinion polls, was under less pressure, but put in a competent performance designed to underline the message that a future Fujimori government would pursue a different path from that of the previous Fujimori government (of her father). Kuczynski, suffering a bad cold or something worse, said the predictable, but is probably the candidate who attracted most enthusiastic support from the business audience before him in the hall. And Toledo also did his best to hone his oratorical skills, but probably did little to boost his credibility as a candidate with the odds heavily against him; his campaign seems to be running into the sand.

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