Preferences are not yet clearly decided in Peru one month before the general elections on April 11. According to a poll released last Tuesday, the center-left populist and former congressman of the Popular Action party Yohny Lescano leads the vote with 13%, followed by three right-wing candidates tied with 7% each. Conservatives compete to be the best exponent of the strong hand and the defense of the free market. 21% of voters do not know which of the 18 candidates to vote for and 16% prefer to leave their ballot blank, according to the Datum poll.
Although the electoral campaign is marked by proposals to get out of the crisis caused by the pandemic -the Peruvian economy fell 11% in 2020-, in the last week a controversy has gained momentum over the possibility of private companies importing vaccines against covid-19. Presidential candidates from various political parties, in opposition to the Government of Francisco Sagasti, promote this option.
Of the 19 presidential candidates, Lescano, the favorite, is the one who has had the longest run in politics. He has been a member of parliament three times for the same party and has represented Puno, the region where he was born, on the border with Bolivia. A 62-year-old lawyer, Lesacano offers to fight against monopolies, especially the pharmaceutical one, and is socially conservative. He affirms that he would not accept abortion in the event of rape “because they murder an innocent being” and suggests that the State assume responsibility for these babies.
Lescano’s party led the movement to remove then-president Martín Vizcarra in November, investigated for receiving alleged millionaire bribes from companies when he was regional governor of Moquegua in 2014. Congressman Manuel Merino, from the Popular Action bench, assumed the position of interim ruler for six days after the abandonment of Vizcarra, and is investigated for the deaths and injuries caused by the police repression in the protests against the interim.
Among those tied with 7% intention to vote on the right, Rafael López has grown in visibility. The candidate is a former councilman and financier of the party of Luis Castañeda, the former mayor of Lima investigated for the alleged receipt of bribes from the Brazilian construction companies Odebrecht and OAS.
López changed the name of the National Solidarity group, stained by the investigations to Castañeda, and applied for Popular Renovation. In the January survey of the Institute of Peruvian Studies it was listed at 2%, but its ultra-conservative Trump-style messages have sparked outrage and gone viral. In one of his speeches, he proposed that girl victims of rape who became pregnant could spend a stay in “a five-star hotel, with a swimming pool, food,” so that they could later decide if they wanted to keep the baby or give it up for adoption.
López is a businessman and one of his companies is part of the railway oligopoly that serves Machu Picchu, the main Peruvian tourist attraction. Their companies have millionaire tax debts. The politician, who is also a member of Opus Dei, has recruited members of the Sodalicio, a Peruvian Catholic sect sanctioned for psychological and sexual abuse as candidates.
Former soccer player George Forsyth has 7% of the electoral preferences and is running for a political group that he joined in 2020. Before, he was district mayor and councilor for two right-wing parties. He offers to “put on his pants” to confront crime and threatens “bad Venezuelan migrants” with expelling them from the country if he is elected. In Peru, it has received about a million Venezuelans since 2017.
Keiko Fujimori, leader of Fuerza Popular, is a presidential candidate for the third time and has stalled at a 7% intention to vote, but she also faces the greatest rejection, with 62% of the electorate saying they would never vote for her. This Thursday, the prosecutor José Domingo Pérez has requested 30 years in prison for the candidate, for the crimes of organized crime, money laundering and obstruction of justice, among others, for having received undeclared contributions from Odebrecht and the main Peruvian bank for its 2011 and 2016 campaigns.
The marketing of the candidate appeals to the legacy of his father, the autocrat and former president Alberto Fujimori, and has indicated that if he becomes president he will pardon him. His campaign slogan is “a strong hand to rescue Peru again.” The Fujimori patriarch is imprisoned for crimes against humanity and corruption.
The researcher and social psychologist Hernán Chaparro says that several candidates have opted for ultra-conservative positions because “advances, even if few, on gender issues generate fear and reactions. Several are, at least, on the agenda for debate. And in the same line, they react to a loss of economic power in the decisions of the State [durante el gobierno de Vizcarra]”.
The moderate left candidate Verónika Mendoza, appears with 6% of electoral preferences. His main proposals are a tax reform that includes a tax on large fortunes and a referendum on a new Constitution.
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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.