Peru has a new President! The presidential election was held on Sunday, but the winner was not announced until Thursday afternoon. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) of the Peruvians for Change party, narrowly beat Popular Force candidate, Keiko Fujimori. How narrowly? By less than half a percentage point with PPK receiving 50.12% of the popular vote and Keiko receiving 49.87%. A margin that narrow in the USA would have everyone calling for a recount. However, voter turnout was just over 80%, which is unheard of in the USA, which averages around 50-60%.
This is actually a run off election. On April 10, an election was held with 9 presidential candidates. Because none of them received 50% of the vote, they held a run off between the two candidates that received the most votes. Both candidates promised to be tough on crime and promote a favorable business environment to improve the economy.
PPK, age 77, was a former executive at the World Bank and was Prime Minister in Peru from 2005-2006 as well as serving in various ministries in the Peruvian government. He is not viewed as being particularly charismatic and many say that he can’t relate to, or doesn’t understand the average person in Peru. His age is also a concern.
Keiko Fujimori has a much more colorful past. Her father, Alberto Fujimori, was President of Peru from 1990 to 2000, but is now in jail for charges of corruption and human rights violations. While he was President, Keiko served as First Lady when her parents divorced. She was a congresswoman from 2006 to 2011. However, she was studying abroad at Columbia University during her term and so was absent for much of her term. One of her advisors has been under investigation by the US Drug Enforcement Agency for money laundering. So with this past history how did she make so far in the election? Many Peruvians credit her father’s regime with defeating the Shining Path rebels.
Election day itself was pretty quiet here in Ilo. There were no riots or protests as the American media loves to report. There were simply dueling car stereos blasting the candidate’s theme songs as one nudged ahead of the other and then that one regained the lead by a fraction of a percentage point.
With our own election on the horizon, it was interesting to experience the electoral process in another culture.