Peru is currently greatly polarized in two opposing opinions: keeping the democracy, which to many represents accepting more of the same system of corruption, or welcoming socialism, rather communism, though many refuse to be using this word to describe so the programme of Pedro Castillo, who they view as a liberator and who they believe will bring an all-inclusive society.
Let´s summarize a few facts about the two candidates as well as the elections as such, without making this article in any way biased or “my personal opinion based”, simply helping to navigate through facts to those who want to learn more but cannot encounter any complex information on the situation.
Facts about Elections in Peru
- The participation in the voting in the General as well as Presidential elections is obligatory to all Peruvians who have come off age. If somebody refuses to go voting, they have to pay a fine of 100 soles. This makes it frequently so that from the four sectors in Peru, A – D (A being the richest, D being the poorest people), sectors C and D always vote while some from sector A and B sometimes avoid the responsibility and prefer to pay the fine.
- Those who go voting to avoid paying the fine but are not sure who to vote for or rather “what is the lesser evil” as they see it, often leave the ballot empty which sadly means that later anyone from the electoral commission who is present at the collection of the ballots from the boxes can influence the vote by ticking one of the squares himself/herself according to THEIR preference.
- Cheating with the ballots is easy in Peru. In my country, for example, the number of ballots at a given electoral commission corresponds exactly to the number of the citizens in a given ward. Each citizen who comes to vote proves their identity with an identity card, receives one ballot to fill – with a covering envelope – and their name is ticked on the list. Later, therefore, the number of ballots thrown into the ballot box corresponds exactly to the number of the people who voted in the ward. In Peru, every member of the electoral commission has a pile of ballots at his or her desk. The verification of the correspondence between the ballots in ballot boxes with the number of the people who came to vote is obviously not dealt with well as sadly, this was not first time when a member of an election commission have cheated: a member of an election commission was arrested by the police on Sunday, the day of the second round of the elections, as he was secretly filling out ballots in favour of Pedro Castillo at his desk.
- Presidents are elected for five years. Recently though, not many have lasted for so long. Over the past four years, Peru has had four presidents: one resigned over a vote-buying scandal, another was impeached, a third stepped down after less than a week in the post, and the fourth is the current interim president.
- The President is elected using the two-round system. Eighteen candidates participated in the presidential election, the highest number of candidates since the 2006 Peruvian general election. Pedro Castillo, a member of the left-wing Free Peru party, faced Keiko Fujimori, the leader of the right-wing Popular Force who had previously narrowly lost the run-offs of the 2011 and the 2016 elections, in the second round.
Election Programmes: Keiko versus Pedro
This is a very important thing to understand why things in Peru may turn out the way they shall: Many voters DO NOT READ the election programs of the candidates. They simply have a certain feeling, hatred, hope, sympathy, asympathy which is possibly deepened by TV and radio pre-election discussions (heated, with emotions raging and candidates shouting at one another, quite as experience indeed to watch that for a person from Central Europe where emotions are often reserved and held back) but when you ask Peruvians of various backgrounds about the programmes as such, they do not know, in fact, they often do not even know where to find them. Many people, especially in the rural areas, do not even own laptops (or cell phones) and lack access to the internet.
I have read both the programs (which is something all Peruvians should have done) and will share some most general basics here.
Keiko Fujimori (and Alberto Fujimori):
After changing the methodology of how Peru registers Covid deaths, Peru became the country with the highest per capita death rate from coronavirus in the world (we may just be guessing whether this is due to the lack of good healthcare or due to the fact that city Peruvians in general do not live a healthy lifestyle, not knowing what a walk is, always using a moto taxi, eating meat twice a day, overconsuming refined sugars, fries and soft drinks. There are 7% of Peruvians suffering from diabetes…). Ms Fujimori promised in her program that her government would give 10,000 soles to families who had lost a relative to Covid-19.
She promised to continue with the democratic evolution of the country, the support of small businesses, foreign investors, tourism and promoting areas such as education, healthcare and fair conditions for farmers.
But many Peruvians fear that if she wins, the country will continue on its “path of corruption”. There are also opinions that the country’s “old guard” could return to power as Ms Fujimori, the daughter of a former president Alberto Fujimori, promised to pardon her father, who is in jail serving a 25-year-sentence for crimes including corruption and human rights abuses.
Concerning the deeply divisive figure of Alberto Fujimori, the country clearly flourished during his reign (roads were made, non-prospering state companies were sold to private hands to prosper, foreign investors were welcome to bring more enlightenment and to help to economics – and – most importantly, the terrorist guerrilla groups were dealt with – see more below) but at a cost of some innocent lives lost, especially during the dealings with the Shining Path guerrillas.
Another thing that many find hard to forgive was the forced sterilisations of indigenous women during the reign of Alberto Fujimori which he was justifying by the fact that the communities do not use contraception and have a large number of children whom they cannot provide for and who thus starve to death in terrible conditions.
The Shining Path Guerrillas and the Terror Many Fear
There are Peruvian families which were greatly affected by the terrorism of the Shining Path guerrillas and which thus by no means wanted to vote for Mr. Castillo, believing that the terrorists are more likely to unite with the opponent of Alberto Fujimori´s daughter.
The recent terrorist attacks (in May) also became water for their mill: Sixteen people, including two children, were slaughtered in a rebel attack in the village of San Miguel del Ene, carried out by the far-left Shining Path guerrilla.
The bodies had bullet holes in them and some, including the children, were burnt. Peru’s armed forces said that next to the bodies pamphlets signed by the Central Committee of the Militarised Communist Party of Peru – the official name of an offshoot of the Shining Path – had been found warning people not to vote in the upcoming presidential election on 6 June. The pamphlets also said that the group would “clean” the area of “informants and traitors” and other “parasites”.
The Maoist rebel group lost much of its power after the arrest of its leader in 1992 but remnants are still active in Peru’s coca-producing region.
Mr. Castillo, who seemed an outsider in the first round of the elections, is a primary school teacher coming from a poor rural family. Just this fact makes many look up to him for what he has achieved. Many see him as the “Peruvian dream” (just like the “American dream” – from poor to rich and famous) model, the liberator from the corruption.
The left-wing trade unionist campaigned on a promise to help the poor by introducing higher taxes on powerful mining firms in this copper-producing nation.
He has spooked markets with this proposal of redistributing mining wealth, and while on Sunday – when the first counts showed Ms Fujimori as the leader in the elections – the American dollar lost to the Peruvian sole, on Monday, when it turned out that the results could be in favour of Mr. Castillo, the Peruvian currency fell to an all-time low.
What many fear is the fact that Mr. Castillo said he would redraft the constitution which the other half of polarized Peru sees as something good, hoping that the rewriting of the constitution means “ending all inequalities”. The opponents claim that this is utopia and that everyone will lose, corruption will continue and the country with the new constitution will follow the scenario of Venezuela. These fears are not biased as Vladimir Cerron, the main advisor of Mr. Castillo´s, officially claims on all his social networks and in all the interviews that “Mr. Nicolás Maduro should by no means give in to the pressure of the rightist party as the revolution is to stay and last”.
The fears that the politics of Mr. Castillo could destabilise the country’s economy also have their roots in the fact that in his program, Mr. Castillo claims to cancel private pension funds which is a surprising decision to make in a country where many do not receive any pension from the state. When Mr. Castillo was asked what he would do with the money he takes away – nationalizes – from the people who have been saving up all their lives to have some back-up for their senior age, he did not answer.
Time to Pray for Peru
Whoever wins will have a tough task ahead bringing together a polarised nation which is gradually losing belief in any good, which is filled with bitterness and where friends are re-establishing their relationships depending on their friend´s vote.