- BBC World News
Peruvians do not know very well what results to expect this Sunday, the day they will vote in the first round of the presidential and parliamentary elections.
Unlike previous processes, it is not clear which are the two presidential candidates that will go to the second round, a stage that will be necessary because no candidate is projected to even touch 50% of the votes.
In fact, no aspirant to rule the country would overcome10% of the votes, according to a telephone survey by the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP) published in the Peruvian newspaper The Republic last Sunday, the last day that polls could be published in Peru before the vote.
In addition, this survey showed a tie for top five, since the differences between their percentages were less than the study’s margin of error.
To add more uncertainty to the panorama, the sector that seemed to group the largest number of voters was that of those who responded that they had no candidate, which was 28% and who decided their vote during the week or at the last minute.
In total, there are seven candidates who have a chance of going to the second round, said Manuel Saavedra, managing director of the Peruvian Company for Market Research and Public Opinion (CPI), this Thursday.
“The data is changing from day to day, hour to hour, and with a very large percentage of undecided,” Saavedra added.
The variability is such that if the elections were delayed for a week “there would probably be another result,” said IEP lead researcher Patricia Zárate.
Given this situation, “anything can happen,” he warns in dialogue with BBC Mundo Milagros Campos, political scientist and lawyer from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP).
This atomization of the intention to vote and the unpredictability of the results have no antecedents in the recent history of Peru.
“There is a disaffection, a crisis of representation,” says Campos.
How did the country fall under these circumstances?
“The context of the health, economic and political crisis is relevant to understand how Peru has fallen into this apathy,” explains the political scientist.
But the problem is not explained only by the most recent situation of the pandemic, which is in one of its worst moments in the country.
These are four keys to understanding this uncertain panorama.
1. Crisis of parties / Crisis of representation
Campos says that Peru has been experiencing a crisis of parties for decades, but that it is more of a “crisis of political representation.”
“The traditional parties, with history, have ceased to represent a high percentage of the electorate and the newer parties are taken by some politician who does not have a party. Each election presents different candidates who do not remain in the party, which gives them a very great unpredictability to the system “, says Campos.
The political scientist Carlos Meléndez also recognizes that although there is a wide variety of political parties in Peru, currently none manages to summon large masses.
“The parties are in crisis when citizen dissatisfaction and lack of leadership are combined.”
But he clarifies that the crisis of the parties “is relative” and that “it does not mean that the parties disappear or that they cannot be useful in certain contexts.”
In fact, one of the parties that appears in the top five in presidential polls is Popular Action, founded in 1956 and which has reached the presidency four times. The last one, with Manuel Merino, after the dismissal of Martin Vizcarra at the end of last year.
If he won, “our idea that the parties do not work in Peru falls,” Meléndez tells BBC Mundo.
2. Weak presidencies
To the problem of the parties is added the continuous confrontation between the Executive and the Congress during the last five years.
In 2016, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) won the presidency of Peru, but had a weak bench in Congress, while that of his rival in the elections, Keiko Fujimori, obtained an absolute majority.
Between 2017 and 2018, this opposition majority filed two impeachment motions against PPK and eventually forced his resignation amid allegations of corruption for allegedly receiving bribes from Odebrecht.
The fight between the Executive and the Legislative continued with the successor of PPK, Martin Vizcarra, who also came to the presidency without much support in Congress.
In September 2019 he dissolved Parliament and in November 2020, the new Parliament that had been installed removed him from office.
Manuel Merino, the president who replaced him, lasted five days and finally assumed Francisco Sagasti, a transitional agent.
As the state is “in permanent conflict,” there is a “mistrust that politics can solve day-to-day problems,” Campos says.
Prospects for the new government don’t look much different, given the high dispersion of the vote.
“With this election, Peru faces two concrete risks: one, that of the presidency without a majority, with a highly fragmented Congress, with much greater fragmentation than we have historically had,” Campos told BBC Mundo.
“And the second risk, a consequence of the first, is that there are governance problems similar to those we have experienced in the last five years. The threat will continue to exist,” he adds.
3. The problem of corruption
Another issue that has hit the hopes that Peruvians could have in politics is corruption.
According to the Barometer of the Americas of the Latin American Public Opinion Project, from Vanderbilt University, USA, Peru appeared in the 2018-2019 edition as “the country most concerned about corruption “, since 36% of those interviewed named it as the most important problem in the country.
It was also the country in which the most respondents, 95%, “believe that half or more of the politicians are involved in corruption.”
PFor 61% of Peruvians, the main problem is corruption, according to an October 2020 survey by Ipsos Peru.
“There is a hyper-fragmentation of the electorate due to the collapse of the establishment politician, who fell for different shocks. The first was Lava Jato (the anti-corruption operation around the construction company Odebrecht) and the prosecution of current politicians, both from the left and the right, “says Meléndez.
“The effect of jailed presidents is that many of the parties were left without leaders and people stopped trusting these political options,” he adds.
In addition, the scandal known as “Vacunagate” broke out in February, when it was discovered that in October, before being dismissed, former President Vizcarra and his wife were secretly vaccinated months before vaccination of the population began.
Vizcarra, his wife and dozens of other government officials agreed to what were known as “courtesy vaccines” from a Chinese pharmacist conducting a clinical trial in Peru.
The media released a list of 487 people who had accessed the “VIP vaccines”. The complaint caused a wave of unrest in Peru as the country is one of the hardest hit in the region by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The disappointment caused by VacunaGate and other investigations by Vizcarra, which had managed to tune in with a part of the Peruvian electorate, was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Meléndez.
Campos believes that the corruption of recent years has created “a feeling that all politicians are equal, that corruption is inevitably present in politics”, thus “it has seriously affected confidence in the political system.”
Peru is theoretically at a time when a populist leader could emerge, Meléndez believes, because of the “collapse of the establishment political, the general distrust towards the political class and a greater social unrest as a consequence of the pandemic “.
“A feeling of ‘let’s change things’ is generated in the voter, so the moment is ripe for the emergence of a populist discourse,” warns Meléndez.
But for the political scientist, of the candidates fighting to go to the second round –Yohnny Lescano, Hernando de Soto, Keiko Fujimori, Verónika Mendoza, Rafael López Aliaga, George Forsythand Pedro Castillo– “none have a populist discourse.”
“They are trying to confront the establishment, but they only shoot at dimensions of establishment. They don’t confront it as a whole, “Melendez says.
“For example, Mendoza and Lescano confront the economic dimension, but they cannot confront the politics because Lescano was a congressman and Mendoza participated in the government of Ollanta Humala (2011-2016)”.
“You have López Aliaga (businessman) who confronts the establishment moral, but does not confront the economic part. And you have Forsyth, who confronts the establishment political, but it does not confront the economic or moral dimension “, details Meléndez.
So “they remain minipopulists; they are speaking to a niche of the electorate.”
“They have segmented the Peruvian electorate and given the fragmentation, they have sharpened their positions, which is why the extremes are more noticeable,” says Meléndez.
Meanwhile, Keiko Fujimori and Hernando de Soto remain as “the defenders of the establishment“.
“They defend above all establishment economic, then that makes them defend the rules of the game and the institutions in force, therefore, that makes them defenders of the establishment as a whole, “says Meléndez.
Remember that you can receive notifications from BBC Mundo. Download our app and activate them so you don’t miss our best content.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.