Between one and two percentage points. That’s how small is the gap that separates Keiko Fujimori from Pedro Castillo. The latter has been dominating the race all the way to the Government Palace, but in the last month the candidate of Fuerza Popular has managed to drag a good part of the indecision. Castillo counted from the starting box with almost half of the effective votes; but Fujimori, the burden of his surname and his own past, started with less than a third. To overcome it, it has relied on polarization.
Elections in Peru
Pedro Castillo has carved out a political career outside the usual channels of Lima’s political elite. From the educational unionism and away from the capital, Castillo unexpectedly brought to a second round positions to the left in the economic aspect, wrapped in moral conservatism and rhetoric of a deprived people against, precisely, that Lima elite in which his rival is also framed . To counter this, the candidate has invested her entire discourse in the logic of order (her) versus chaos, trying to identify Castillo with the authoritarian and anti-market drifts of neighboring countries, particularly Venezuela. With this, Fujimori has trusted that the fear or ideological rejection were high enough to attract voters who, rather than electing her, would be choosing anything before Pedro Castillo. According to the data, polarization would be working precisely in this sense.
In addition to the classic polls of voting intention, in which people are allowed to show indecision or choose a blank vote, the main Peruvian polling stations carry out what they call mock voting in the final stretch: studies that have the same guarantees representativeness than the polls, but in which the election is also restricted to two candidates with a simulated ballot. From here an estimate of valid votes cast for each candidate is extracted, reducing individual doubts as much as possible. The average of the last four published simulation exercises puts the added uncertainty to the maximum: 50.4% for Castillo, just 0.7 points less for Fujimori (49.7%).
This miniscule difference has been getting smaller in the second half of May. The first mock voting showed gaps that, although within or around the margin of error, were more significant: between 3 and 5 percentage points. In one of the drills, Fujimori even got ahead of Castillo, even by just 1.4 points.
The individualized trend of each drill also points in this same direction. For example, the one prepared by the pollster Ipsos Peru marked a loss of 1.5 points for Castillo between May 21 and 28 (from 52.6% to 51.1%) and an increase of the same value for Fujimori (from 47.4% to 48.9%). In the one carried out by Datum, which gave Castillo the greatest advantage (6.4 points: 53.2% vs. 46.8%) of those observed, the contest turned into a virtual tie (50.5% vs. 49 , 5%) in just one week.
Based on these same data, the statistical forecast of the independent platform Cálculo Electoral elaborates a forecast that discriminates and corrects biases and survey qualities. This exercise serves, more than as an indisputable prediction mechanism, as a tool to calibrate uncertainty: how safe or unsafe is a victory for the candidate who leads the polls one week after the vote, when the regulatory limitation that applies to the media based in Peruvian territory to publish them? The response of analysts Ricardo Viteri, Sebastián Naranjo and Carolina Viteri: In approximately six out of ten possible worlds, Castillo will win the election. But in another four out of ten, this one would go to Keiko. In other words, there is little certainty, we are on unstable ground, when we travel through such narrow margins.
Such is the nature of extraordinarily polarized elections, in which the decision to vote against outweighs as much or more than the decision to vote in favor. The electorate is mobilized in an extraordinary way, and the balance towards which it tends is the division of the country into two halves. This is to some extent an illusion favored by the interests of the candidacies, which tends to blur outside the electoral high point, but feels very real in the eyes and minds of all those who must go to the polls to undo a technical tie: every vote counts.
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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.