Three electoral polls released this week in Peru put the leftist and rural professor Pedro Castillo with a wide advantage over Keiko Fujimori, leader of the conservative Popular Force. According to the survey of the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP) released on Sunday, Castillo has 41% of the preferences and Fujimori 21%, while those who would vote null or white or have not decided their vote add up to 44% of those surveyed.
In Metropolitan Lima, where 29% of the electoral roll is found, the gap narrowed. The eldest daughter of the autocrat Alberto Fujimori, accused in March of money laundering, criminal organization and obstruction of justice, achieved 31% and the union leader 29% of the preferences. The difference between the two is within 2.6 points of the survey’s margin of error. On June 6, more than 25 million Peruvians will attend the ballot, including more than 997,000 residents abroad.
Castillo -who began his campaign last weekend- has held a dozen mass rallies in squares in the north of the country, despite the fact that Peru faces the worst moment of the second wave of the new coronavirus, with more than 400 deaths per day in the last week. In his speeches, he reiterated his commitment to “civil death to the corrupt” and to increase the percentage of GDP allocated to education and health from 3 to 10%. Faced with criticism that his government plan, drawn up before the pandemic, does not include measures against the health crisis, this week he indicated that he will lead a “Pandemic plan” and once again promised safe vaccines.
The candidate has received the backing of the former presidents of Bolivia and Uruguay, Evo Morales and José Mujica; while the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, and the former president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, support Fujimori. Castillo also denied any closeness to the Venezuelan Nicolás Maduro regime, as his detractors denounce.
In an interview with the Peruvian station Radio programsVargas Llosa harshly criticized Castillo: “If you establish the Venezuelan or Cuban model for Peru, a military coup cannot be ruled out.” The writer said that Keiko Fujimori called him to express his commitment that he will not stay in power for more than five years after he asked to vote for her in his column in EL PAÍS.
A Datum poll, released in the middle of the week, indicated that 16 of the 41% who will vote for Castillo considered it “the change that the country needs”, while 29% of that same group reject Fujimori “because he is being investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office ”. 13% believe that Castillo represents “the poor and the most forgotten” and 10% choose him to prevent the conservative candidate from winning.
Fujimori has received the backing of the former ultra-conservative presidential candidate Rafael López Aliaga, who announced that he will visit the towns where he received the most votes to lash out at the Peru Libre candidate. “Castillo has in me an enemy of death. What this man wants to bring is to distribute poverty: it has cost us so much to give work to so many people for a savage to come and destroy the country, “he questioned.
According to the survey of the Institute of Peruvian Studies, at the highest socioeconomic levels, 38% favor Fujimori. In the lowest, Castillo harvests up to 49%.
A candidate with a bad image
The political scientist Paolo Sosa commented to this newspaper that “it is very difficult that, at this point, Keiko Fujimori can substantively modify the negative perception that people have of her and her party. And this is made worse by his strategy of stirring up anti-communist fear. On the contrary, it puts her in a belligerent situation that brings back memories of her role as an opposition since 2016 ”.
The researcher, affiliated with the IEP, alludes to the behavior of the Fujimori group of Fuerza Popular in Congress, at the beginning of the government of then-president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Some Fujimori parliamentarians coordinated with corrupt justice groups, called Colllos Blancos del Puerto, to obstruct the money laundering investigations they were facing.
Sosa adds that since Fujimori’s candidacy is highly unpopular – with a 55% vote against according to Ipsos Peru – “it diminishes the credibility of any strategy he uses to demonize his contender, including ‘anti-communism'”. “Even though fear of the left exists in a sector of the citizenry, it is minimized in the face of the terrible reputation that Fujimori has earned, not only because of the authoritarian regime of the nineties, but also because of its role in the crisis of recent governance. Keiko Fujimori denounces that communism is chaos and authoritarianism, but these are two characteristics also associated with his political project ”, affirms the political scientist.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.