Peru may fall in Latin line: Leftist gets most votes for president

Leftist ex-officer vs Fujimori in Peru runoff
by Frank Bajak
Associated Press Writer

LIMA, Peru – An anti-establishment military man who promises to redistribute Peru’s wealth won the most votes in Sunday’s presidential election and will face the daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori in a runoff, unofficial results showed.

Keiko Fujimori, 35, could easily be favored over Ollanta Humala in the June 5 runoff as Humala was the only candidate advocating altering Peru’s free market-oriented status quo with a greater state role in the economy.

The ex-army lieutenant colonel also won the first round in Peru’s 2006 presidential vote but was defeated 53 percent to 47 percent by Alan Garcia in a runoff widely considered a rebuff to Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chavez, who had openly backed him.

This time, Humala distanced himself from Chavez, while Fujimori backed away from vows she made to pardon her father when he was convicted in 2009 of approving death squad killings and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa has called a runoff between Humala and Keiko Fujimori “a choice between AIDS and terminal cancer” given perceptions of their anti-democratic tendencies.

Unofficial results representing 86 percent of the vote released by the nonprofit electoral watchdog Transparencia gave Humala 31.6 percent in Sunday’s election — well short of the simple majority needed to win outright.

Keiko Fujimori — whose father Peruvians alternately adore and vilify — got 23.3 percent trailed by Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a 72-year-old former World Bank economist and investment banker, with 18.3 percent.

In fourth was Alejandro Toledo, Peru’s president from 2001-2006, with 15.9 percent. Pre-election polls showed he would defeat Humala in a second round while Kuczynski and Fujimori would have a harder time.

Humala has spooked foreign investors by promising a greater state role in the economy and to divert natural gas exports to the domestic market.

That’s just fine with Federico Sandoval, a 60-year-old veterinarian in Lima’s sprawling lower class Villa El Salvador district.

Sandoval said he voted for Humala because the corruption that has long been a hallmark of Peruvian politics — and that many believe worsened under President Garcia — needs to stop.

“In order to improve the situation there need to be changes and they should be radical,” Sandoval said.

Politics in this resource-rich Andean nation have been volatile since the 1980s, when its discredited political parties all but dissolved.

George Mason University political scientist Jo-Marie Burt said Sunday’s outcome put Peru on “a really terrible road and I think it shows how weak the whole political system really is.”

“The people are very divided,” said Luis Tamayo, a 25-year-old engineering student in Villa el Salvador who, like many better-educated Peruvians, voted for Kuczynski. “What you’ve got here are older men who are very nationalist, very leftist and are voting for Humala and women who work in the community kitchens who are Fujimoristas.”

Keiko Fujimori constantly invoked her father during the campaign, running on his legacy of delivering essential services to Peru’s forgotten backwater and of being tough on crime. It’s a potent message in a nation of 30 million where one in three live on less than $3 a day and lack running water.

Peru is a top exporter of copper, gold and silver, commodities whose rising prices have helped fuel economic growth averaging 7 percent over the past five years. But it is a growth that has hardly trickled down to the poor.

Peru ranks 13th out of 17 countries in the region in terms of citizen access to social services, according to a new World Bank report. In the country’s rural highlands, where both Humala and Fujimori ran strongly, 66 percent of Peruvians live in poverty, half in extreme poverty.

Kuczynski, a German immigrant’s son who was economics and prime minister under Toledo, climbed into contention in the campaign’s final weeks. But the perception of him as the candidate of big foreign capital hurt him.

Toledo had led in the polls until late March, when Humala overtook him and voters also defected to Kuczynski.

Humala, 48, made promises similar to those of Keiko Fujimori: free nursery school and public education, state-funded school breakfasts and lunches, a big boost in the minimum wage, and pensions for all beginning at age 65.

He says he would respect international treaties and contracts, but many Peruvians don’t believe him.

Humala, who launched a bloodless, short-lived revolt against Alberto Fujimori just before the latter fled into exile in 2000, advocates rewriting the constitution, as Chavez and his leftist allies in Bolivia and Ecuador have done. He says it will make it easier to enact reforms — vowing not to seek re-election, as Chavez and the Bolivian and Ecuadorean leaders have.

Fujimori has a rock-solid, unwavering constituency thanks to her father’s defeat of the Maoist-inspired Shining Path insurgency, taming of hyperinflation in the 1990s and social agenda.

“Because of him we are free. Because of him we’re at peace,” said Luz Montesino, a 60-year-old bakery owner who voted at a school built during his presidency.

Like other Fujimori voters, Montesino was not bothered by the fact that Alberto Fujimori in prison. Nor do many Fujimori supporters seem to be concerned by critics’ fears that Keiko would pardon her father, and that he’d be calling the shots in her presidency. Reposted by (

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