LIMA, Peru – No clear front-runner has emerged in the race for the Peruvian presidency less than a week before voters cast their ballots on April 10.
In an Ipsos Apoyo poll published March 27 by El Comercio newspaper, support for former military officer and nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala surged, moving him into the top spot for the first time with 22.8% of the expected vote.
Keiko Fujimori, congresswoman and daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, is expected to receive 22.3% of the vote. Previous front-runner and former President of Peru Alejandro Toledo came in third, with 21.6% of the vote. Former Prime Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is expected to receive 15.8%, just ahead of former Lima mayor Luis Castañeda (15%), according to the poll.
A candidate must earn 50% of the vote plus one vote on April 10 to become president. But if that majority is not reached that day, a run-off election will be held between the top two candidates on June 5.
If current polling numbers hold, President Alan García’s successor will be decided in a runoff.
The five candidates represent different branches of Peruvian politics. But four of them have similar government plans, as only Humala’s nationalist politics set him apart.
“One important point to make that perhaps people outside Peru don’t understand is that, in my opinion, we have no political parties,” said Pablo Secada, Kuczynski’s campaign chief.
Carlos Aramburú, professor of anthropology at Pontificia Universidad Católica, said there are two established parties: Partido Aperista Peruano and Partido Popular Cristiano (PPC). Kuczynski’s political group, Alianza por el Gran Cambio (Alliance for a Greater Change), has a connection with PPC, but the other four candidates are not aligned with either party.
A look at the top five candidates
Humala of the Gana Perú party made it to the runoff election for president in 2006, losing to Alan García.
Humala ran with a hard nationalist edge, associating himself with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Bolivian President Evo Morales.
Five years later, Humala has centered his leftist politics in an attempt to earn votes from the middle class and younger voters.
If elected, Fujimori of the Fuerza 2011 party said she will free her father Alberto Fujimori, who is imprisoned for committing human rights violations.
Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa has opposed her candidacy, but others have praised Alberto Fujimori for stopping the Shining Path terrorist group in the 1990s.
Riding on her father’s legacy, Fujimori has developed a strong base of supporters, according to Aramburú.
Toledo of the Perú Posible party went from shining shoes to studying at Stanford University. He served as Peru’s president from 2001 to 2006, defeating García in a run-off election.
Many credit him with spurring Peru’s economic rise.
“I believe he established the foundations for macroeconomic stability by controlling public spending and inflation,” Aramburú said.
Toledo, who grew up in a small town in the Andes, was the country’s first indigenous president.
At 72, Kuczynski of the Alianza por el Gran Cambio party is the oldest candidate who has rallied support from the youngest voters.
Aramburú said this is significant because a third of the voters are under the age of 35.
Secada said the nation’s youth have campaigned among their families and promoted their candidate to older voters.
“You put a lid on the top of a pot of water,” Secada said. “You heat the water and it starts to boil. You leave the lid on, and then suddenly you remove the lid from the pot and boom, steam fills the entire kitchen. This is what has happened.”
Luis Castañeda of the Solidaridad Nacional party is known more for his work than his words. Two of his biggest accomplishments were overseeing the construction of stairs for the poor living in the hills near Lima and spurring advancement in the healthcare system.
“[Castañeda] has completed more than 4,000 public improvement projects in his past,” said Augusto Ferrero, a Castañeda spokesman and candidate for congress. “[If he’s elected], these projects will be developed at the national level.”
Candidates are spending the days leading to the election by campaigning nationwide. The biggest issues are improving political stability and economic growth while reducing the poverty rate.
The recent economic growth has reduced poverty, but Aramburú said the next president must address the gap between the rich and poor in the Andean nation.
“I think that what we need to do is to make a political system that guarantees greater equality among people,” said Aramburú.