Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has staged an upset over Keiko Fujimori, but the result underscores the defeat of Fujimorismo more than it does his victory.
The tables have turned: Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) has staged an upset over Keiko Fujimori, winning by a mere 0.2% of votes in the second round of the Peruvian presidential election. This is the closest margin of victory in Peruvian history, smaller than the 0.7% margin in the 1962 elections between Victor Raúl Haya De la Torre and Fernando Belaúnde Terry.
Fujimorismo, the conservative ideology associated with Keiko’s father, the jailed former president Alberto Fujimori, has lost for the second time now (the first was the 2011 elections). The result of the 2016 poll underscores the defeat of Fujimorismo more than it does the victory of PPK, who owes a substantial portion of his vote to the anti-Fujimorismo camp. This election provides a rich arena for the study of the anti-vote and its power to produce a major turnaround.
PPK’s performance in the first round was mediocre compared to Keiko and her party Fuerza Popular (Popular Force or FP). With only 3.2 million votes, PPK’s vote share was roughly half of Keiko’s 6.1 million in the first round; now, PPK has surged to 8.5 million votes in the second round, roughly 40,000 votes more than Keiko managed. A comparison of both candidate’s performance in the first round paints a bleak picture for PPK.
Even a week before the elections on June 5, every major poll forecast a victory for Keiko. A series of events, such as corruption scandals and endorsements from political leaders like left-wing candidate Verónika Mendoza, helped swing votes in favour of PPK in the week before the final vote. These events made a significant impact, but we must not lose track of the macro view: Keiko’s defeat can be attributed mainly to a concerted national effort to discredit Fujimorismo, and shed light on its past and present misdeeds, ranging from corruption and clientelism to allegations of money laundering and links to drug trafficking. This constant attack from all sides has caught Fujimoristas off-guard and put them on the defensive.
Significantly, none of this would have been possible without the active mobilisation of anti-Fujimoristas. The scandals plaguing the FP and the endorsements favouring PPK acted as ammunition for millions of individual Peruvians to push the anti-vote and spread their message through social networks, newspapers, television, dinner conversations and protests on the streets. If Peru’s voters were a passive audience, Keiko would have breezed through the second round. But they were the opposite; so active, in fact, that PPK won in nine states where Keiko had a steady lead over him in the first round (see graph below).
Anti-Fujimorismo may be the primary reason for Keiko’s loss, but it is worth examining the elements that have made this such an effective movement.
First, the amorphous and fearless nature of anti-Fujimorismo lends credibility to the movement. Political leaders with ulterior motives do not lead this movement; even PPK, who will become the second president to reap the benefits of anti-Fujimorismo, is only a spectator to this effort. The movement consists of millions of individuals who truly believe that a Fujimori victory would be a step back for Peru’s democracy. A large majority of them actively work to convince other Peruvians that they should vote for any candidate but a Fujimori.
Second, anti-Fujimorismo cuts across political, socio-economic and geographic paradigms. In 2011, anti-Fujimoristas rallied to vote for Ollanta Humala, a leftist candidate inspired by Brazil’s former President Lula da Silva. Now, they chose PPK, a right-wing candidate and former investment banker who renounced his US citizenship only in November 2015 – arguably the polar opposite of Humala. Anti-Fujimorismo thus has no political boundaries. They know no socio-economic or geographic boundaries either: PPK has won in the urban coast and the rural highlands, and in the poorest (Cajamarca and Huancavelica) and richest provinces (Lima and Arequipa).
Last and perhaps most important, anti-Fujimoristas have a tactical advantage. They operate on a platform of fear (of the past) and anxiety (of the unknown). This is in contrast to the Fujimorismo effort, which needs to generate confidence in people – much harder to do, especially for political movements.
Anti-Fujimorismo aside, there is no denying the massive popular support for Keiko and the FP. Although Keiko lost the popular vote, she has still won more states, provinces and districts than PPK in the second round. Her party holds a record majority 73 seats in the country’s 130-seat unicameral congress – the first non-coalition majority in the 21st century. PPK must prepare for the overarching role the FP will play as dealmakers and legislators. For the new administration to be able to govern in peace, it would be pertinent to form a pact with the two main political actors: the FP, which has the majority, and the leftist Mendoza’s Frente Amplio, which has two seats more than PPK’s 18 in congress.
As stated during his election campaign and in his government plan for 2016-2021, PPK is likely to focus on increasing economic growth by formalising Peru’s labour force, 72% of which is engaged in the informal sector, promoting tax incentives and inviting more foreign investment. He may also implement measures safeguarding citizens’ rights, anti-corruption and social inclusion.
Although thousands of kilometres and a vast gulf of knowledge separate Peru and India, these elections are important for India. Peru is a growing commercial partner for us: India’s exports to Peru in 2015-16 were more than exports to Sweden or Egypt. More than 25 Indian companies operate in Peru; India is Peru’s largest source of cotton yarn imports and woven jute fabrics, while Peru exports gold, copper and phosphates to India. Bilateral ties will likely deepen under PPK, who is familiar with India and open to diversifying Peru’s economic relationships with the world. India and Peru must also look at new avenues of cooperation. A starting point could be one of PPK’s proposals to create an elite administrative service that citizens could join through a competitive examination, similar to India’s Union Public Service Commission that selects the country’s elite Indian Administrative Service officers.
Hari Seshasayee is a Latin America analyst. He tweets at @haricito