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Veronika Mendoza (pictured) ran as the presidential candidate of the left-wing Broad Front in the April 10 general elections.
Ester and María Florencia Pagliarone, translation by Sean Seymour-Jones
April 23 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal translated from Strategic Latin American Centre of Geopolitics, CELAG --
General elections were held in Peru [on April 10]. Along with the position of president and vice-president, 30 congresspeople were elected for the 2016 – 2021 period, and another five representatives to the Andean Parliament. According to the electoral roll, there are total of 22,017,030 registered voters residing in Peru, while another 884,924 people living abroad are registered and eligible to vote. Peruvian law establishes that if no candidate obtains more than 50% of the valid votes cast, a second round of elections will take place on June 5, 2016.
The participation rate was 85.01%. An interesting fact from the electoral roll is the proportion of young voters in this election: 6,779,371 young Peruvians, aged 18 to 29 years old, were registered to vote. Of these, 148,066 were registered overseas, with the United States being home to the largest number of Peruvian youth. Moreover, for 717,959 young Peruvians aged 18 to 20 years old, this was the first time they were able to participate in elections.
With 99.9% of the votes counted, the initial results indicate that presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori has won 39.85% of the vote. In second place is Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK), with 21%, and in third place, Verónika Mendoza with 18.82%. In fourth place is [Alfredo] Barnechea with 6.97% and in fifth place, Alan Garcia with 5.82%, his worst election result ever, confirming the need for the Peruvian Aprista Party (APRA) to find new leadership. If this tendency holds there is a possibility of a second round as no candidate obtained the 50% of the votes needed to become Peru’s next president.
With regards to the geographic distribution of the vote, initial results show Fujimori winning in 15 of the 24 regions, including the capital; Mendoza in seven southern regions; Kuzcynski in only one, Arequipa, the second biggest city of the country; and Gregorio Santos, the left-wing candidate that decided to run outside of the Frente Amplio and who campaigned from prison, where he is awaiting judgement for charges of corruption, easily won in Cajamarca.
According to an initial count by IPSOS regarding the Congress, [Fujimori’s] Popular Force will obtain 68 seats. In second place, [Kuczynski’s] Peruvians for Change will have 20 parliamentarians; [Mendoza ‘s] Broad Front will have 20 congresspeople; Alliance for Peru’s Progress [APP, who’s presidential candidate was disqualified from the race] 12; APRA and Christian Popular Party [PPC, who ran together as Popular Alliance] 5 seats each, along with [Barnechea’s] Popular Action. The election results mean five political parties will be de-registered as they did not surpass the electoral hurdle of 5% required to maintain their registration and continue actively participating in politics. These parties: former president Alejandro Toledo’s A Possible Peru; former justice minister Fernando Olivera’s Hope Front; former president of congress Ántero Flores-Aráoz’s Order Party; imprisoned former governor of Cajamarca Santos’ Direct Democracy; and Miguel Hilario’s Progressing Peru.
A few issues to consider:
* The imminent continuity of the economic model: until now the election results reveal that the elections have not reflected a change in the economic model. Both Fujimori and PPK are representatives of a neoliberal model. Keiko’s brother himself, Kenji Fujimori, said that a second round between his sister and Verónika Mendoza would be an election between two systems. Without a doubt there are many similarities between PPK and Fujimori and not only because of their links to the Panamá Papers, even if PPK might be perceived as better prepared to assume the post, a fact that is highly questionable given his far from spotless career as a lobbyist. In a future second round, the debate will not be over economic policy; rather it will polarise itself for and against Fujimori.
* The role of religion: PPK’s candidacy in 2011, backed by the Alliance for a Big Change, was made up of parties with incompatible ideologies – the PPC, led by former presidential candidate Lourde Flores; Christian pastor Humberto Lay’s National Restoration; former Premier Yehude Simon’s Humanist Party; and northern businessman and former candidate Cesar Acuña’s APP. In the 2016 elections, he debuted his own party and had the public backing of Mario Vargas Llosa. Despite establishing itself as a secular state in its constitution, 74% of the Peruvian population declares itself to be Catholic. In this scenario, the clergy has expressed its opinion in a biased manner: the cardinal of Lima, Juan Luis Cipriani, and the archbishop of Arequipa, Javier del Río expressly declared themselves to be against any candidate that support abortion or same-sex marriage, in reference to Barnechea and Mendoza who have declared themselves in favour of decriminalising abortion for cases of rape, and civil unions. Additionally, Keiko Fujimori stated that she would only support abortion cases where the mother’s life is in danger.
* A symbolic fulfilment of the Fujimori dictatorship: Alberto Fujimori presidency represented a point of rupture. His greatest legacy is having shaken up the country’s political party system and democratic institutions through his self-organised coup and resignation via fax from Japan. Fujimorism was a watershed moment: while for many Peruvians it is a dark history that should not be repeated, others see as key what political scientist Martín Tanaka defined as “effective right-wing populism”. This concept tries to account for a collective image of a generous and strong man that handed out presents in poor towns, while shooting down others in a “pacifying” crusade against terrorism. In this context Keiko Fujimori said: “I know how to look at the history of my country. I know what chapters should be repeated and I know very clearly which ones should not”. The current frontrunner seems to have a clear reading, despite six complaints involving video evidence of her handing out presents. She has successfully managed to project the issue of crime as the new “other”, thereby establishing a remake of her father’s crusade against the Shining Path, which reached the point of exterminating entire towns. Crime is the new terrorism. In her speech, Fujimori asked citizens to put aside political differences and support “reconciliation”, but her success consists precisely in having known how to channel the pleas of the population who see crime as their main problem, and she is ready to tolerate excesses as long as it shoos away old ghosts: yesterday guerrillas, today criminals. Hernán Chaparro, an analyst for the consulting company GFK, pointed out that a context of generalised corruption and sensation of alienation, has led 77% of people to believe it is necessary to have a firm hand to govern. A desperate demand that appeals to a collective desire for justice.
* Pardon: The pardoning of her father is practically the raison d'être for her “I do what I say in my campaign” and to not do so would be seen as a betrayal by her members. But if she does it, the cost will be high considering the demonstrations against her that led to the suspension of certain activities during her campaign. A large part of those who form her team were also part of her father's team, which has raised well-founded suspicions. On the 24th anniversary of the self-organised coup that her father carried out, tens of thousands of people marched in more than twenty cities in Peru. As a kind of trick or treat, the candidate has said that she will leave the pardon in the hands of the courts, the same ones that disqualified candidacies at its own discretion over the last few months. For his part, PPK has declared that, for supposed humanitarian motives, he supports a law that would allow house arrest for those older than 70. Alberto Fujimori and PPK, who are the same age, could possibly be legally untouchable in the future if and when the courts plays along.
* An emerging left: Verónika Mendoza was the preferred candidate of Nadine Heredia, the first lady of a government that Vargas Llosa, after having distrusted it for believe it to be “Chavista”, called the best in Peru’s history. Mendoza, who is 35 years old, represented a generational shift, and with her close relationship with the popular sectors was the political revelation of the election, with her support consistently growing over the last months. It was not enough. In postmodern, global societies a campaign on a shoestring budget does not help you win elections in a country when the El Comercio Group of the Group of National Journalistic Company SA (Epensa) concentrates 78% of the newspaper market. The newspapers’ sensationalist journalism and attempts to manipulate are nothing new under the sun. During the 2006 and 2011 presidential campaigns, they motivated the until-then columnist for El Comercio, Mario Vargas Llosa, to pull out, pointing out that “the newspaper had converted itself into a propagandistic machine for the candidacy of Keiko”. Just as with [current president Ollanta] Humala, the media did not hesitate in branding her as “Chavista”, alluding to declarations in which she stated that Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo López was a coup plotter. As if that was not enough, they unjustly linked her to Shining Path. And as a finishing touch, on the eve of the elections, Peruvians were having breakfast as this organisation carried out an attack against the military, leaving a death toll of 10 in the town of Hatunccasa, in Santo Domingo de Acobamba, in the centre of Peru. Mendoza defines herself as socialist, and has declared her support for “equal” homosexual marriage, and therapeutic abortion and abortions in cases of rapes, legal initiatives that have been rejected in Peru’s congress but which they could promote from the new seats they have obtained there. At the same time she has become a leader of a left that for years has been divided, and everything seems to indicate that she has a great future ahead of her.
 Results have been updated from original article to reflect the most up to date figures