An ultra-conservative millionaire who admits to spanking himself daily to suppress sexual desire is just one of a variety of low-voting candidates who have a chance to become Peru’s next president.
Rafael López Aliaga is technically tied with five other contenders in an unpredictable race for a runoff in June, including a former goalkeeper, a Sorbonne-educated socialist and the daughter of the country’s jailed former leader Alberto Fujimori.
Sunday’s vote will take place during a second wave of Covid-19 that this week established a new record for daily deaths as the highly contagious Brazilian variant takes hold. Neighboring Chile postponed a constituent assembly vote scheduled for the same day after an increase in cases.
Peruvians joke that they have long been used to voting for the lesser evil -Or the lesser evil- but Hernán Chaparro, a political analyst, said that “that concept has been overcome.”
“There isn’t even one less bad: the people who vote don’t want any of them!” he said.
About 28% of Peruvians would not choose any of the candidates, according to a survey by the Institute of Peruvian Studies. Other polls show that the handling of the coronavirus pandemic by three different presidents, all in the midst of a series of political crises, has only compounded voter disenchantment.
“The pandemic has left a state with holes and hugely frustrated citizens, who reject politicians and are not very interested in the elections,” said Fernando Tuesta, professor of political science at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Lima.
“Add to that the largest number of candidates in living memory, who do not ignite passion and show more weaknesses than strengths.”
López Aliaga, a rail and financial magnate, has been compared to far-right figures such as Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro (whom he rejects) and Donald Trump.
A member of the ultra-conservative Catholic group Opus Dei, López Aliaga has opposed same-sex marriage and has vowed to deny abortion to underage rape victims, raising concern among human rights activists also alarmed by his use of conspiracy theories, disinformation and hate speech against opponents and journalists.
López Aliaga’s candidacy may have stolen some right-wing votes from Keiko Fujimori, but Alberto Fujimori’s daughter emerged with a slight advantage over the other five candidates, according to two final polls published Thursday.
The runner-up in the 2011 and 2016 presidential elections, Fujimori has faced accusations of corruption and has spent months behind bars in pretrial detention, although she is now under house arrest due to the pandemic. His father ruled Peru in the 1990s and was found guilty of murder by death squads and rampant corruption.
Hernando De Soto, 79, a radical free market economist facing many of the same voters, was hit by Covid-19 in the United States while calling for Peru’s vaccination program to be privatized. Older Peruvians remember him as a key adviser to strongman Fujimori when he dissolved Congress and sent troops to the streets in 1992.
But polls show leftist Yonhy Lescano, 62, has the best chance of winning a place in the second round. He is a member of the tarnished Popular Action party, but he vehemently opposed his role in driving the removal of former leader Martín Vizcarra from Congress in November, sparking huge pro-democracy protests.
For younger voters, the options are largely daunting.
“It’s really complicated because a lot of the candidates have a very bad reputation,” 20-year-old nursing student Amiel Eduardo told The Guardian.
Some young voters see the leftist Verónika Mendoza, 40, as one of the most enlightened candidates in a conservative field, and one of the few who support legal abortion and same-sex marriage. But the candidate’s socialist economic policies for the second time worry some voters and, although she has criticized the authoritarian government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, some in her party continue to defend it.
Finally, George Forsyth, 38, a former goalkeeper for the Alianza Lima soccer club, also served two years as mayor of La Victoria, a crime-ridden district of the capital, before resigning to join the presidential race.
Voting is mandatory in Peru, but turnout in this election is expected to be lower than in previous ones due to the Covid-19 pandemic, especially among older voters.
“Peruvians are so tired of corruption that they basically don’t believe in anyone,” said Natalia Sobrevilla, a Peruvian historian who teaches at the University of Kent. “Because everyone is voting so low and the differences [in votes] they are so small that any change can really alter the result, “he said.
Peruvians’ trust in their elected representatives is at an all-time low after years of influence peddling and a series of toppled presidents. The Odebrecht scandal, in which a Brazilian construction company was found to have paid massive bribes throughout Latin America, led to the imprisonment of three former Peruvian presidents and the death of another, Alan García, who shot himself before being arrested. in 2019..
“In the past, we had a fragile democracy in Peru,” said Chaparro. “But now he is in intensive care.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism