Peru’s Historic Elections: A Tight Victory for Kuczynski’s Centre Right Politics

SikhumbuzoThe Republic of Peru recently went on polls to choose the captain who will steer up the ship of one of Latin America’s fastest growing economy in what analysts termed a historic election contestation. The current form of government in Peru was established by the Constitution of 1993, which established a Presidential Representative Republican system of rule with multi-party elections. The executive branch of government has the President as the chief of state and head of government. The legislative branch of government on the other hand is vested in the Congress of the Republic of Peru, which is a 130-member unicameral congress which is elected every five years by a universal, secret and direct vote.

The recent democratic elections that took place in Peru proved to be a closely contested vote in decades for competing candidates with Mr. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski narrowly defeating his closest rival Ms. Keiko Fujimori in the runoff elections. Despite earlier lead in the presidential poll, on Friday 10 June Keiko Fujimori the daughter of the imprisoned former president Alberto Fujimori, conceded victory to the centre right candidate of the Peruvians for Change party (Peruanos Por el Kambio, PPK). Such victory by the liberal economist could certainly have bearings for Peru’s economic outlooks both domestically and regionally given its position as an emerging regional power. It should be noted that Kuczynski has alternated periods as an official in Peru, firstly as the Central Bank governor in the 1960s, and then as the mining minister in the 1980s. He also served as the economic and prime minister in the early 2000s and has been involved with the World Bank. As a former businessman and banker in the United States, the world awaits to see how he’s going to govern over a country characterised by frequent social conflicts.

Nevertheless, Keiko Fujimori leader of the Fuerza Popular (Popular Force Party), later challenged her opponent Kuczynski claiming that in the second round of elections, his party was supported by the political power of the outgoing government, business leaders and media moguls to enhance their election success. Keiko led the poles throughout the electoral process but only a few days before the runoff elections, allegations of corruption surrounded her closest aids. In addition to this, calls from left wing candidates to vote for Kuczynski helped the new president to narrow the gap by a slender margin of 50.12% to Keiko Fujimori's 49.88%, with all ballots counted. Nevertheless, despite her loss, Keiko is still a political force in Peru because her party holds the majority in the Congress with 73 seats out of 130 seats in the Congress. It also helps to understand that Kuczynski’s governance policy has few real differences to that of Ms Fujimori. This comes as both candidates are proponents of free trade and public security policy. They both support the recently negotiated but not yet ratified Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal in which Peru is among its members. In terms of security, Fujimori advocates for strong security through ‘mano dura’ (heavy hand) platform and on that account Kuczynski said that one of his first policy priorities would be public security.

Thus, the forthcoming President Pedro Kuczynski, will have a tougher time governing a divided country because not only did he win by a delicate margin but also because his party only managed 18 seats in the country’s unicameral Congress. With this in mind, Peruvian political analysts believe that Kuczynski can only govern by building bridges and offering concessions to Fujimori’s party, which holds the majority seats in the Congress. Nevertheless, President-elect Kuczynski might have a powerful bargaining clout to pursue Popular Force’s support by signing into law a bill that would move the 77 year old, former President Alberto Fujimori from prison to house arrest, by arguing that the man is too old to be incarcerated. Fujimori is serving a 25 year sentence for corruption and human rights violations committed during his term in office as President of the Republic of Peru from 1990 up until 2000.

Its ‘on the backdrop of such legacy that more than 200 000 people marched against the return of Fujimorism in Peru’s politics just days before the runoff elections. They may have succeeded in their aspirations with the defeat of Keiko Fujimori in the presidential race, but Kuczynzki faces a stiff challenge to try to unite a divided country. Economists speculate that Peru is currently Latin America’s fastest growing economy. Its economy grew 4.4 percent in the first quarter from the previous year, compared to 2.6 percent growth in Mexico and 2 percent in Chile. With this being said, there are hopes that the former World Bank economist Kuczynzki can steer up Peru towards permanent growth and sustainable development whilst at the same time conquering the hearts of the public that has become increasingly dissatisfied with politics in general.

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