Lima: A spat between presidential contender Keiko Fujimori and her younger brother, Kenji, over the future leadership of the political movement they inherited from their ex-president father could cost her key votes in Peru‘s tight June 5 run-off election.
Keiko threatened to throw Kenji out of her political party after he stoked fears that the family harbours dynastic intentions by saying he will run for president in the next elections in 2021 if she loses this year.
Keiko had vowed that no one with the Fujimori surname would seek the presidency in 2021 before her brother declared on Twitter: “the decision is mine.”
“I’ve spoken with him…for us this chapter is closed” Keiko, a 40-year-old former congresswoman, said Wednesday.
Critics said the dispute has laid bare a rift at the heart of their centre-right party, Fuerza Popular, as patriarch Alberto Fujimori languishes in prison for corruption and human rights abuses committed during his 1990-2000 government.
“Fujimori and her brother are fighting about who will get the piñata in 2021!” Fujimori’s rival Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a centrist economist, told reporters. “Peru is not a piñata.”
Kenji, a 35-year-old lawmaker, has defended Alberto Fujimori more stridently than his sister and is widely seen as leading his father’s hardline loyalists.
Keiko has striven to distance herself from her father’s authoritarian rule and seized on her brother’s defiance to shore up her democratic credentials.
“Fuerza Popular rejects any attempt to alter the processes of internal party elections with a self-proclaimed candidacy five years before an election,” Fujimori said.
But the damage may have already been done, especially among middle-ground voters wary of the family’s dominance, said Alfredo Torres, the director of pollster Ipsos in Peru.
“I think Keiko reacted very well, she put Kenji in his place… but the balance is negative,” said Torres. “It’s going to be harder for her to win over undecided voters.”
Fujimori and Kuczynski have been virtually tied in recent opinion polls. She was seen winning 39% of votes to Kuczynski’s 43 percent in an Ipsos survey published Sunday, with 18% of uncommitted voters still up for grabs.
Keiko is popular in rural districts where her father is celebrated for building schools and cracking down on guerrillas, but she faces stiff opposition from those who consider him a corrupt dictator.
Kuczynski, a 77-year-old former World Bank economist and prime minister of Peru, has scant support among poorer voters or in areas outside the capital Lima.