Peru Historical Overview: Politics Today

Politics Today

In June 2011 Ollanta Humala, a former army captain-turned-politician, narrowly defeated Alberto Fujimori’s daughter Keiko to become Peru’s 94th president.

Though Humala eventually emerged victorious it appeared for much of the campaign that his opponent would win. In the first round his support had principally come from poor, disaffected populations in the jungle and Andean regions who sought changes to Peru’s economic model. For a number of weeks after, it appeared that more affluent voters, particularly in the capital, were reluctant to back Humala fearing his reform programme would jeopardise the country’s economic growth. Opinion polls only a week before the second round vote put Fujimori, who had surrounded herself with officials linked to her father’s corrupt government, as much as six points ahead of her rival.

In an effort to woo those centrist voters with growing reservations about Fujimori, Humala continued his tack towards the centre. He adopted a new election manifesto (dropping earlier pledges, for example to rewrite Alberto Fujimori’s 1993 constitution) and formed an alliance with Toledo’s centre-right party, Perú Posible. This ultimately gave him the additional support that helped him win the second round.

On assuming office Humala implemented a series of progressive reforms designed to improve the standing of the country’s poorest. These included the introduction of a non-contributory pension scheme, an increase in the minimum wage, reforms to the education and health systems, a windfall tax on mining firms and a law on prior consultation for communities faced with extractive industry projects. He had also appointed left-of-centre people in charge of social policy, notably Aida García Naranjo, the women’s minister, and Carolina Trivelli who heads the newly created Ministry for Social Inclusion.

However, in a highly significant cabinet reshuffle in December 2011 some of these more progressive individuals were removed from their government posts. The appointment of former military official Oscar Valdes as prime minister, coupled with the hardening of the government's attitude towards protestors in Cajamarca, raised concerns that Humala's administration may behave in a less conciliatory manner in future.