Why it mattered?

Peruvians were forced to closely consider their past in this run-off election as they decided between Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of the political party Peruanos por el Kambio (PPK), and Keiko Fujimori, a representative of the Fuerza Popular political party and daughter of Alberto Fujimori, who is currently serving 25 years in prison for human rights abuses he committed as President of Peru. The new President will serve a term of 5 years and have a large responsibility to maintain Peru’s current economic growth despite anticipations of a future slump in commodity prices. The incoming President will also be responsible for successfully managing a peaceful democratic transition as President Ollanta Humala steps down after completing his term.

Who ran?

Few expected the run-off presidential election in Peru between Kuczynski, an intellectual economist, and Fujimori, a Congresswoman and former First Lady, to be this close. Following an election that saw no major disruptions or irregularities, in the final ballot, Kuczynski lead Fujimori by a margin of .26 percent. Fujimori initially did not concede right away, but rather contested 50,000 ballots and asked for them to be recounted by the Peruvian National Electoral Board. In order for her to be declared the winner, nearly all of them- more than 40,000- would have had to have been found for her. After five days, Fujimori finally conceded on Friday, June 10, when it was clear she didn’t have any chance to turn around the results.

Fujimori fought hard to prove that her presidency would not be a repeat of her father’s, promising to halt rising crime as she fought against speculation that she would use her new power to have her father released early from prison. Despite being perceived by many as being too American to be President of Peru, Kuczynski managed to be a fierce competitor in the election. While Fujimori and Kuczynski are both married to Americans, Kuczynski has spent significant time in the United States and Europe; his children live in the United States, and his parents are European. Keiko, on the other hand, in addition to being young and energetic, was widely perceived as being more in touch with the common Peruvian. She campaigned at length in rural areas of Peru, while Kuczynski left the country entirely for a trip to the United States in the midst of campaigning. This only added to his image as an inaccessible and wealthy international economist.

Fujimori faced numerous communications crises in the week before the election, likely affecting the late surge in votes for Kuczynski. Rumors circulated two weeks before the election that a key leader of Fujimori’s party was linked to drug trafficking and that her political party was involved in money laundering. Kuczynski also benefited from the endorsement of Veronika Mendoza, a left-leaning Congresswoman who came in third in the first round of the election. Thousands of Peruvians also protested against the possibility of having another Fujimori in office on May 31, the weekend before the election.

Criticisms abounded that the election had been reduced to Fujimorismo vs. Anti-Fujimorismo and lacked substantive focus. Fujimorismo is largely defined by the legacy of Fujimori’s father; it is anti-terrorist, anti-communist, and in favor of the free market and businesses. Supporting the free market is actually one issue on which Fujimori and Kuczynski shared a common opinion.

What’s the outlook?

Despite Kuczynski’s win, Fujimori’s party seems poised to maintain significant influence in the Peruvian Congress. Her party, Fuerza Popular, already won 73 of the 130 seats in Congress, Kuczynski’s party won 18, and the Frente Amplio has 20. Three other parties have less than 10 seats each. Kuczynski’s win will increase the chance that his government could make changes, but he will still face numerous hurdles in passing legislation through the Congress. He will likely be forced to compromise with the Fuerza Popular and el Frente Amplio constantly and to succumb to many of their efforts. Kuczynski has ambitious plans for maintaining economic growth in Peru and improving Peruvian infrastructure. Given his time in the World Bank and on Wall Street in the United States, he is indeed likely to have significant advantages when it comes to bringing foreign investment into the country.

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