Election Preview: Peru 2011

Presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in Peru on April 10, 2011 with a runoff on June 5. While nobody was watching, a very interested contest has developed in the presidential election which makes this election one of the most interesting of 2011 to date. Peruvian politics move very quickly and are hard to understand thanks, in part, to the less-than-useless party labels. In this preview post, I try to offer a brief synopsis of the main events in Peruvian politics since 1980 and then a concise overview of the main parties and actors in this contest.

How it works

The President of Peru is elected for a five-year term and cannot serve two consecutive terms in office. He is elected under the traditional two-round system.

The Congress of Peru is unicameral with 120 members. There are 25 electoral districts corresponding to the regions of Peru. Each district elects between one (Madre de Dios) and 35 congresscritters (Lima). In reality, Lima has by far the most members given that no other region elects more than 7 and most elect between 2 and 3. From what I’ve figured out, there is a minimum of three candidates per party in each district and voters vote for individuals who are ordered on party lists. I gather that the individual with most overall votes win the first seat, the second individual most voted of all lists wins the second and so forth. Wikipedia’s article on the 2006 elections has an easy table of which coalitions won how many seats in each district. Details of 2006 results can be found on the government’s ONPE page.

Peru’s five seats (and ten substitutes) in the Andean Parliament. Each party list has fifteen candidates, and it seems as if the five top vote-getters overall are elected and the next ten are elected as substitutes.

Peru since 1980: A Brief Political History

I said that I wanted to begin in 1980, but a good overview of Peruvian political history must begin in 1924 and jump around to the 1960s. In 1924, while Peru was under the rule of right-wing populist strongman Augusto B. Leguía, a socialist thinker and exiled intellectual by the name of Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre founded the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA). APRA’s five-point plan of 1926 inclued opposition to Yankee imperialism, Latin American unity, nationalization of lands and corporations, internationalization of the Panama Canal and solidarity with oppressed peoples throughout the world. The APRA, which has become Peru’s most enduring party and perhaps one of the only true political parties in Peru, is an interesting beast. As can be seen from the five-point plan, APRA had aspirations to create a pan-continental political party and did inspire parties such as the MNR in Bolivia or the PLN in Costa Rica. APRA is either known as such or under its more official name, the Partido Aprista Peruano. APRA’s strongman, Haya de la Torre, ran for President in 1931, 1962 and 1963 and won in 1962 – before the military informed him that they didn’t feel like having him as President. APRA only won the 1985 and 2006 presidential elections.

Fast track to 1968. In 1968, the military under General Juan Velasco staged a coup and seized power from elected President Fernando Belaúnde Terry. Belaúnde, elected in 1963, represented the aspirations of the Peruvian middle-class and was the moderate reformist – similar to Frei in Chile – standing in the middle against conservatism and socialism (APRA). As every Peruvian President has done, he screwed up. Land reform ended up being for show thanks to conservative and Aprista opposition. In 1968, he signed a deal with the International Petroleum Corporation (IPC) which sparked nationalist fires and led to the military stepping in. In this regard, the Peruvian military’s actions in 1968 stand out from the rest of South America. In Brazil, Argentina and later Chile they seized power from leftist actors whom they perceived as threats to stability and their interests. In Peru, they acted autonomously from Washington or conservative interests. They adopted not neoliberalism but the dependency theory. Finally, they had genuine sympathy with the plight of the peasantry. Velasco proceeded to major agrarian reform which created peasant cooperatives and had killed off the old agrarian landowning elite by the mid 1970s. Velasco’s government supported top-down corporatist mobilization of workers and peasants in a way reminiscient not of Allende or Castro but rather the PRI in Mexico or Perón 1.0 (1946-1950). Velasco also encouraged worker ownership of industry and nationalization of foreign firms. But economic woes, plus domestic resistance, forced Velasco out in 1975. His successor dismantled his programs, imposed IMF prescribed austerity and set the ground for a civilian president in 1980 with the 1978 election of a Constituent Assembly.

In 1980, with 44.9%, the winner was Fernando Belaúnde of the Popular Action. The APRA’s Armando Villanueva took 27%. Fernando Belaúnde supported progress through public works but also promised economic liberalization, private investment and supported private enterprise. But Peru was hurt by the 1981-1983 recession, the near-default of Mexico in 1982 and El Nino. The economy neared collapse in 1983 and came through only thanks to austerity programs which heightened social tensions. On top of economic dislocation, guerrilla activity with the neo-Maoist Shining Path and the Marxist-Leninist MRTA increased in the 1980s and forced Belaúnde to authorize military repression. The drug trade also became a serious issue.

Fernando Belaúnde managed to serve his term. In 1985, APRA’s populist, charismatic and forceful orator Alan García was elected by a large margin by the first round. With APRA majorities in both houses, García undertook a risky economic policy. He increased wages, cut payroll and sales taxes, cut interest rates, froze prices and devalued the currency. A boom in consumer spending proved short lived and was followed by a default on Peru’s foreign debt. Collapse followed as the trade deficit mushroomed, leading to social tensions and investors fleeing. An economic shock program in 1988 was a disaster and inflation was 7500% in 1990. By all accounts, García’s tenure was an absolute disaster.

Recent Nobel Prize laureate and world-famous writer Mario Vargas Llosa was the original frontrunner in the 1990 campaign. Vargas Llosa, supported by most political parties, supported a neoliberal solution to the economic crisis. However, Vargas Llosa was probably too elitist and intellectual to win, and he fell victim to dark horse candidate Alberto Fujimori, an obscure agrarian engineer and university rector of Japanese descent. Fujimori ran as the candidate of a self-made political vehicle named Cambio 90 and was your traditional populist anti-establishment candidate against the liberal elitist Vargas Llosa. Vargas Llosa led 33-29 in the first round, but lost 62-38 in the runoff.

Fujimori proceeded to implement and go further than most of Vargas Llosa’s program. Though relaxation of price controls, spending cuts, privatizations, liberalization of investment and import laws and simplification of tariffs, the Fujishock was able to restore fiscal stability to Peru albeit at the price of social tension. With IMF and foreign support, Peru’s economy boasted impressive growth in 1994-1995. In September 1992, the military captured Sendero leader Abimael Guzmán and generally eliminate terrorism.

Annoyed with an opposition-dominated Congress, Fujimori staged a self-coup on April 5, 1992 and shut down Congress. In 1993, with a Fujimorista-dominated Constituent Assembly, he drafted a new constitution which allowed him to run again in 1995. Taking 64%, Fujimori easily defeated former UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. By 2000, Peru had become an illiberal democracy with relatively free (but not fair) elections in a country marked by systematic human rights violations.

In April 2000, Fujimori was able to run again on the excuse that it would be his second term since the adoption of the new constitution in 1993. Although he controlled the media, institutions and public resources; Fujimori was reelected narrowly (and probably would have lost a fully free/fair election) against upstart candidate Alejandro Toledo, an American-educated business professor. Fujimori got 49.9% against 40.2% for Toledo in the first round, but Toledo  boycotted the runoff which saw Fujimori reelected – although with only 51% of votes cast with 30% invalid votes.

Fujimori collapsed quickly. In September 2000, a viral video showing his intelligence boss bribing a congressman exploded. Fujimori announced he would call elections – in which he would not run – in April 2001. In November 2001, while abroad in Japan, Fujimori faxed his resignation which was rejected by Congress which proceeded to impeach him. Fujimori would later be found guilty of a whole host of crimes upon his 2007 return to Peru.

The 2001 elections were won by Alejandro Toledo, though he defeated disgraced former President Alan García only 53-47 in the runoff. Toledo was generally successful, managing to restore democracy to Peru and maintaining economic stability. Most Peruvians in 2006, however, would disagree with me in that he had the approval rating of smallpox upon leaving office.

The 2006 elections saw a divided first round. Ollanta Humala, on which I’ll come back to later, won 30.6% in the first round. Originally thought to be certain to face Humala, the right-wing Lourdes Flores of National Unity (UN) took third with 23.8% while APRA’s Alan García took 24.3%. Alan García won the runoff against Humala 52.6-47.4.

To Alan García’s credit, his second term wasn’t a trainwreck. Peru’s GDP growth is roughly 5%, one of the highest in Latin America. Poverty has fallen to roughly 35% from 50% or so in 2004. Social indicators are improving. Peru has been helped by a boom in the price of Peru’s mineral exports (silver, copper, zinc and gold) and a continuation of Fujimori’s fiscal policies. But García and APRA seem to be more interested in pork-barrel spending rather than social programs. Corruption is rampant – García’s Prime Minister was forced out in 2008 because of it, and crime is increasing. A 2009 dispute between natives and Petroperu over exploitation of oil reserves killed 22 soldiers and 30 natives. Again, García has paltry approvals of 25% or so.

The Candidates

The original frontrunners were both from the right. One of them is still a frontrunner, the other not so much.

On one hand, you have Keiko Fujimori – the 35 year old or so congresswoman-daughter of Alberto Fujimori running as the candidate of the latest in Fujimori parties – an outfit called “Fuerza 2011”. Fujimori remains popular with poorer Peruvians as the man who restored peace and stability. Keiko, who seems to be a hate-love figure, clearly positions herself as the Fujimorista candidate of order and stability. Her style is some sort of right-wing populism uncommon to the Latin American right, which tends to be far more urban and elitist. She talks about poverty, crime and equality – and not so much about pardoning Daddy.

On the other hand is former Lima mayor Luis Castañeda Lossio of the social conservative National Solidarity Alliance. Castañeda seems to fit the mold of the Latin American right-winger quite well, talking about the economy and reform. His polling numbers have dropped as another upstart candidate surged: Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) is a former Prime Minister, a former finance minister (both under Toledo) and even a mining minister under Belaúnde. Campaigning on sound economic management, Kuczynski has surged from 2% support to 18% (and back down to 16-17%). He is pretty much the candidate of the young urban middle-classes.

Rounding out the centre is Alejandro Toledo, who surged miles ahead in February-March but has since come down to the 17-20% range. Toledo of course supports the current liberal economic makeup of things, but got press when he declared his support for gay rights and civil unions in socially conservative Peru. His numbers fell victim to PPK’s surge and rumours of alcoholism and drug use which he denies.

Ethnic issues have played a major role in Peruvian politics and history. 45% of Peruvians are Amerindians, largely Quechua with some Aymara. 37% or so are mestizos of mixed European-native stock. Shockingly, mestizos have been the traditionally elite of Peruvian politics although Toledo is an Amerindian himself. Which brings me to Ollanta Humala, who ran and lost narrowly in 2006. Humala, an Amerindian, is a former army colonel who led an attempted coup against Fujimori but was later pardoned for it. Humala has the support of the Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP) which mixes pride in Peru’s native/Amerindian/Quechua identity with good ol’ nationalism (which inevitably includes piling abuse on Chile). Humala lost in 2006 partly because he was seen as an insane authoritarian nationalist nutcase and as the Chávez candidate. But unlike Chávez, Humala’s socialism is doubtful although his nationalism certainly isn’t. Since then, he has taken the Lula-2002 route, which consists of making people forget you were a mean old bitter man four years ago but instead you’re now a moderate, nice, sane man. He talks about a “national market economy” and some toned down economic nationalist anti-neoliberal rhetoric. But investors obviously aren’t convinced.

As the maps of 2006 show, Humala dominated the sierra and montaña regions (the Andes and the jungle, basically) while Garcia support was generally concentrated along the coast, notably in Lima/Callao and Trujillo. The inland regions have a high proportion of Amerindians, while the coastal regions tend to be more mestizo and European in culture. Lima itself tends to support the right, although it elected its first left-wing mayor in a long time in 2010, while Callao is on the left. La Libertad Region, around Trujillo, is an APRA stronghold held together these days by little less than tribal loyalty for Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre in his home region. The whole north coast, however, has also seen good APRA support in sugar plantations. It will be interesting to see where APRA’s tribal base goes, but also what emerges as the bases of support for people like Keiko or Toledo. Keiko seems to be competing with Humala for the rural, poor (and thus native) vote. Toledo seems to have support spread out quite equally. The race in Lima, where PPK is likely far ahead, will be interesting.

Parliamentary elections will undoubtedly resemble the presidential race as in 2006. The largest coalition – not by a lot – will probably be Humala’s Gana Perú with Keiko’s Fuerza 2011 in second. Recent polling places Toledo’s Perú Posible coalition in third. PPK’s Alianza por el Gran Cambio and Castañeda’s Solidaridad Nacional run slightly below their candidate’s numbers. APRA, which has no presidential candidate, is polling under 10%. Peruvian parties except for APRA are all one or two-election political machines for a candidate and they often die out or are bought by another guy. They also have funny names.

Presidential polling has this to say, on average:

Humala: 25.1%-28.7%
Fujimori: 17.8%-20.5%
Toledo: 16.7%-22.0%
Kuczynski: 15.6%-18.5%
Castañeda: 10.1%-14.0%

The latest two polls out have a Humala-Keiko fight in the runoff, others have a Humala-Toledo duel. A Humala-Keiko fight would be amusing, a nightmare for some. In the latest runoff polling for Ipsos-Apoyo, Castañeda would win all runoffs, but he won’t make any. Toledo would beat Keiko 43-41 and Humala 44-40. A Humala-Keiko fight is tied 42-42. PPK would lose all runoffs, including 41-43 against Humala and 38-41.

Humala, however, has a definite ceiling and is an extremely polarizing figure. His locked-in support at 24% is the highest of all candidates. 46% overall would either vote or consider voting for him. However, a full 41% would never vote for him and 9% probably wouldn’t. Keiko, similarly, has 40% alienated from her and overall only 43% overall would vote or probably vote for her.

Poll crosstabs are also fun. The highest-class (Class A) gives PPK 52% and Toledo 24% (his highest support). Humala has 6% and Keiko 3% with these wealthies. The poorest (Class E) give 31% to Humala (class D is 33% for him) and 26% for Keiko (her highest) Only 16% for Toledo and 8% for PPK here. In Lima, PPK has 20% with Humala/Keiko tied at 19% and 15% for Toledo/Castañeda. Humala has 29% support in the interior, with Toledo and Keiko tied at 18% in the same region.

Ipsos-Apoyo had a good record in 2006, overall. It slightly overestimated right-winger Flores at García’s expense but Humala’s support was predicted correctly.

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Posted on April 5, 2011, in Election Preview, Peru. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Great article. Forgive my ignorance but what is a poll crosstab?

  2. Crosstabs are basically the details of the poll broken down by sub-groups or sub-samples which in our case are demographic, income, age, region or sex brackets. They obviously have a higher MOE than the actual poll, so sometimes you need to be careful. Crosstabs of the type “voting intentions of Hispanics in Vermont” tend to be entirely useless since they have a huge MOE.

    This specific poll’s crosstabs are here: http://www.ipsos-apoyo.com.pe/sites/default/files/opinion_data/Humala-en-la-segunda-vuelta.pdf

  3. Thanks a lot. If it helps anyone at all I’ve added some diagrams to the bottom of my site which help to visualise what party is supporting whom – although as you rightly say this is something of a sideshow:
    http://whoruleswhere.com/2011/04/04/four-elections-in-four-days

  4. APRA is probably the only real party on there, though the PPC and Popular Action have both been around for a few decades though both seem to be empty shells nowadays.

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