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Peru - 2021 Elections

Peru has a unicameral Congreso de la Republica del Peru (Congress of the Republic of Peru) composed of 130 seats with members serving 5-year terms. Members of Congress are directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representative vote. Almost two thirds of current members of Parliament have been indicted on corruption charges. All living former presidents are in jail, wanted or under investigation for corruption.

Nobody in Latin America is untouched by political crises but over the past few years Peru appears to have become obsessed by winning the prize for institutional instability in the region. The origin of this situation – a permanent power struggle between everybody and carried out in view of everybody, with a majority of politicians shunning loyalty to a collective project or even a single party, and to anything else that isn’t of sectorial or personal interest.

The uncertain outlook is given by the political crisis and corruption scandals that have shaken the country in recent months. The traditional parties have ceased to represent the people, and the newer movements are by barely known leaders who have a little political background. The people have lost confidence in the establishment because the state is in permanent conflict. People no longer believe that politics can solve day-to-day problems.

Peru has been through a series of political crises in recent years, causing significant instability at the very top of the political system. In November 2020, Peruvians were led by three presidents within the space of a week as then-leader Martín Vizcarra was impeached. Pushing an anti-graft platform, interim Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra proposed a referendum on parliamentary immunity in 2020. Congress subsequently impeached and ousted him five months before his term expired, a move denounced by the public as a legislative coup that led to massive demonstrations and social unrest across the entire country. The coup's organizer and then-president of the Peruvian Congress, Manuel Merino, replaced Vizcarra.

Merino's presidency was short-lived. His government reacted with excessive force against the largely peaceful demonstrators, resulting in the deaths of two youths and dozens of protesters missing from an overwhelming outburst of police brutality. Amid international condemnation and demands by ever-growing numbers of protesters, Merino was forced to resign after only five days in office to be replaced by interim president Francisco Rafael Sagasti.

In addition to all this political chaos at the top of the government in 2020, the Andean country has also been badly hit by the Covid pandemic. According to Johns Hopkins University figures, Peru holds the record in South America for the highest number of Covid-19 deaths per capita. The economy has deeply felt the impact of the pandemic, contracting by 11% in 2020. More than 2.2 million people have lost their jobs. Trust in politicians, already low after years of political scandals and corruption charges, was further eroded by the so-called "Vaccinegate," the revelation in February that previous and current government officials secretly got vaccinated early against Covid-19.

These cycles of vicious political conflict have disseminated corruption through all the layers of Peruvian political life. Every former living president has been investigated or charged for corruption. As of 2018, 94% of all mayors were under investigation, and more than half of sitting congressional representatives have stood accused. For decades, Peruvians' frustration has only grown as the executive, and legislative branches purport to protect democratic values but instead focus on filling their coffers.

The recent social unrest and massive demonstrations have focused on demands for constitutional reform and a more transparent political process that explains Castillo's appeal. Within the current constitution, a great deal of power is concentrated in Congress, with very little accountability and a judiciary open to political pressure. Ongoing efforts to eliminate congressional impunity remain a pending issue that the new government must address. Congress members must be obliged to answer allegations and accept the consequences following the due legal process. Police reform, another pending issue, has seen pale efforts under Sagasti's interim rule.

The new Congress will sit for only 16 months as a general election was already scheduled for April 2021.

Peru's Congress ousted President Martin Vizcarra over allegations of corruption. Vizcarra allegedly received massive bribes from companies that won public works contracts between 2011 and 2014, when he was the governor of the southern region of Moquegua. Vizcarra denied the allegations, saying impeachment would be the worst action and worry the public. But Congress on 09 November 2020 voted to impeach him, with two-thirds support. Vizcarra took office in 2018 to succeed then-president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who resigned just before a vote to impeach him over alleged involvement in corruption. Vizcarra was his vice president. As president, Vizcarra was popular among the public for his anti-corruption campaign. But in Congress he clashed with opposition lawmakers, including those who had supported former president Alberto Fujimori. Vizcarra also faced a number of impeachment votes.

Peru would now have an interim president and, in April 2021, a presidential election. Keiko Fujimori, the eldest daughter of the former president, was expected to run.

Public prosecutors in Peru launched a preliminary investigation into former president Manuel Merino, the prime minister and interior minister, over deaths and disappearances during recent anti-government protests. Interim leader Merino was sworn in as president last week after his predecessor Martin Vizcarra, a popular figure among Peruvians, was controversially ousted by parliament. But Peru’s political crisis deepened on 14 November 2020 as Merino himself was forced to resign less than a week into his job, after two protesters died at demonstrations. A further nine people had been reported missing during the protests and over 100 were injured.

Peru's Congress on 15 November 2020 chose a 76-year-old former World Bank official as the South American country's new president, the third in a week. Francisco Sagasti was elected as lawmakers met to try to find a way out of a political crisis.

On April 11, Peruvians will vote for president, two vice presidents, all 130 members of the unicameral Congress and five representatives to the Andean Congress, all to five-year terms. If no presidential candidate wins an outright majority, the top two tickets will compete in a runoff on June 6. New officials will be inaugurated in July.

On top of the political unrest, the Peruvian economy contracted 12.9 percent in 2020—among the worst in Latin America—and the country reported the second-highest COVID-19 death rate per capita in the world at the end of the year. The 2021 elections give an inchoate Peruvian democracy an opportunity to lay the foundation necessary to rebuild from both the pandemic and the political tumult.

More than 25 million Peruvians will be eligible to vote this year, of whom 30 percent are under 30 years old. Voting is mandatory for adults ages 18 to 70 in Peru. Additionally, the elections authority, known as the ONPE, will call up just over a half million people to serve as poll workers. The penalties for not voting range from $6 to $24, and failure to show up for poll site duty results in a $60 fine.

When voters were asked if they planned to vote for a particular candidate, no leading candidate received net positive support, but de Soto has the smallest margin between those who definitely or probably will vote for him (32%) and those who probably or definitely won't (49%), while Fujimori had the largest (23% to 72%).

Yonhy Lescano, the Popular Action (AP) party head had momentum earlier in the year, but his momentum in polls appears to have slowed in the final weeks of the campaign. Originally a lawyer and radio host from Puno in Peru’s south, he served in Congress from 2000 to 2019. Lescano, 62, tends to be more economically populist, calling for a more equitable distribution of Peru’s mining revenues and a “deglobalization” of the economy, while remaining socially conservative. He also wants to expand access to credit by requiring private banks to lower “abusive” credit rates, and reduce energy prices in part by building a natural gas pipeline with Bolivia. One of the big questions will be how much Peruvians will support the candidate from the 64-year-old party, when dissatisfaction with the traditional political actors is high. AP is also hampered by the actions of the deeply unpopular party member Manuel Merino, who last fall led the charge in Congress to oust Vizcarra. He then served as interim president for six days during which he oversaw a lethal crackdown by police on protestors, resulting in two deaths, hundreds of injuries, and several dozen disappearances.

Hernando de Soto, 79, is an internationally recognized economist, author, and expert on the informal economy, social inclusion, and the property rights of the poor. Currently the president of the Lima-based think tank Institute for Liberty and Democracy, de Soto is running on the Advance Country party ticket, whose platform emphasizes social, economic, environmental, and institutional integration. During Peru’s conflict with the Shining Path, his “pro-capitalist intellectual crusade”—as the Economist put it—made him a target of the guerrilla group, and he survived no fewer than three attacks on his life.

Verónika Mendoza, 40, is returning for her second bid for president, although this time her corner of the electorate is more crowded. In 2016, she had most of the left to herself and placed a close third, missing the runoff by less than 3 points. This year, Lescano not only cuts into her supporters from the center-left but also from the southern part of the country where they are both from. In a relatively conservative field, she’s the most progressive of the major candidates—the only one to support legal abortion and same-sex marriage.

George Forsyth, the National Victory party candidate, 38, is now a middling candidate after being the longtime early leader in the 2021 race, thanks in part to his high name recognition as a former member of Peru’s men’s national soccer team and reality TV contestant. Since walking off the pitch, Forsyth has made a name for himself as a pro-business, corruption-fighting city councilmember and as mayor of La Victoria, a large municipality in Lima. The only candidate under 40, his relative youth is a double-edged sword: he brands himself as the face of a new generation, yet he has a shorter track record and his platform lacks the policy specifics of other candidates.

Rafael López Aliaga, a millionaire businessman who fears a “Marxist paradise,” emerged as a genuine contender in the presidential elections, laying bare the political crisis engulfing the country. The presidential candidate with links to Opus Dei has said he is “addicted to the eucharist” and who self-flagellates daily with a spiked metal cilice to preserve his celibacy. By March 28, his support was at 9.7%, according to a survey by the Peru National Institute of Statistics (IEP), a meager number but one that could, in the fragmented political landscape of the presidential elections, be enough to see López Aliaga through to a second round of voting.

The first round of the presidential elections had 18 political parties' competitors. On 11 April 2021 polling stations opened. A total of 18 candidates seek to, above all, occupy a place on the ballot. The polls confirmed that up to seven candidates could be in a technical tie, although the day's winner is uncertain since no candidate looks to exceed a meager 10 percent of preferences. Polls point to a probable technical tie between candidates Yohny Lezcano, of Acción Popular; Verónika Mendoza, of Juntos por el Perú, and Hernando de Soto, of Avanza País, all with between 9 and 10 percent in the latest surveys.

However, other polls did not rule out other candidates, such as Keiko Fujimori, George Forsyth, and Rafael López Aliaga. All in all, it will be a day of difficult prognosis in Peru. According to the electoral roll, more than 25 million Peruvians were called to the polls, although surveys suggest that a large number will opt for electoral apathy. "There is a lot of uncertainty. The data is changing day by day, and the undecided people percentage is very high," Market Research and Public Opinion Company (CPI) Director Manuel Saavedra explained.

Exit polls showed leftist professor Pedro Castillo, of the Peru Libre Party, as the winner of the first round of elections with 16.1 percent of the vote. In the second position is the right-wing Avanza Pais Party (AP) Hernando de Soto, with 14.4 percent of ballots in his favor. He is followed by conservative businessman Rafael Lopez, who had 13.1 percent of the votes. Ex-President Alberto Fujimori's daughter Keiko Fujimori, who represents the right-wing Popular Force (FP), was in the fourth position with 12.1 percent of the ballots.

Unlike in previous processes, a runoff election was necessary because no candidate is projected to get even close to 50 percent of the votes. Leftist professor Pedro Castillo secured 19 percent of the ballots while Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of the imprisoned ex-President Alberto Fujimori, gained 13 percent of the votes.

Trade union leader and educator Pedro Castillo surprisingly emerged ahead in the first presidential round, with promises to write a new constitution and overwhelming support from rural and urban youth sectors. The 51-year-old primary teacher from Peru's Cajamarca region started his political career in 2002 when he unsuccessfully ran for mayor. In 2017, he became a prominent figure in a teachers' strike over pay, and in October 2020, he announced he would run for president for the left-wing Free Peru party. His support in the first election round comes from remote rural areas, rarely touched by pollsters and largely forgotten by previous governments. Mr. Castillo's message of clean politics and a new constitution appealed to many Peruvians fed up with the corruption scandals that have plagued politics for years. Although the media in his country and the political elite have tried to cast him as "a dangerous communist" and the person that "would turn Peru into a new Venezuela," the union's leader won 16 out of the 24 Peruvian regions in the first round.

Keiko Fujimori, 45, pegged her political status and brand to that of her father, former President Alberto Fujimori ever since 1994, when she sided with her father after her mother accused him of abuse and torture. Keiko now led the Fuerza Popular party, which owns the majority in Congress. Still, this support won't be enough in recent years; the "anti-Keiko-Fujimorismo" movement has increased considerably. Her free-market approach to the country's current challenges allowed her to move to the second round, but with only 13 percent of the valid votes, a much lower rate compared to previous elections. Keiko is investors' favorite for the neck-and-neck runoff because they fear her leftist opponent Pedro Castillo. As a free-market supporter with a neoliberal project, Ms. Fujimori says she will use Peru's mining income to boost the economy. She has also said that she will create two million jobs by expanding infrastructure and investing in health and education.

psos Peru's poll released 31 May 2021 placed Free Peru (PL) presidential candidate Pedro Castillo first with a 52.6 percent of votes advantage ahead of Popular Force (FP) leader Keiko Fujimori who secured 47.4 percent. Previously, the Ipsos Peru mock poll showed a difference of 1.9 percent among the runoff candidates and placed them in a technical tie. The gap grew to 4.3 percent in votes cast. In Lima, Fujimori maintains her preference, reaching 59.1 percent of the interviewees' votes. Castillo continues to be the favorite in rural areas, where he obtained 54.2 percent of the votes cast.

Election day was 06 June 2021, when citizens decide this Andean nation's president for the next five years. Peru's right-wing presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori on 07 June 2021 raised allegations of "irregularities" and "signs of fraud" in the run-off election as her rival, the far-left trade unionist Pedro Castillo, took a razor-thin lead in the vote count. Fujimori had led early counting, but school teacher Castillo gained ground as votes from Peru's rural areas – his stronghold – came in from across a country battered by years of political turmoil. With 94.8 percent of ballots counted, Castillo was narrowly ahead of Fujimori with 50.2 percent compared to her 49.7 percent, though there could still be a long wait for the final outcome.

Nine days after the polls, election authorities said on 15 June 2021 that leftist Pedro Castillo won 50.12 percent of the ballots, against 49.87 percent for Fujimori. Castillo was ahead by a quarter of a percentage point, or about 44,000 votes. Fujimori claimed fraud by the Castillo camp and is demanding that the election council nullify some votes.

Castillo would be the first poor president of Peru. Castillo's Free Peru is the largest single party, just ahead of Fujimori's Popular Force, but without a majority. It would take time to calm the waters because there is fierce polarization and an atmosphere of social conflict.



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Page last modified: 24-06-2021 18:02:05 ZULU