Peru­vians vote in tight pres­i­den­tial elec­tion that weighs Fu­ji­mori’s legacy

Jerusalem Post - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

LIMA (Reuters) – Peru­vians voted on Sun­day in a tight runoff for the pres­i­dency, choos­ing be­tween right-wing pop­ulist Keiko Fu­ji­mori, the daugh­ter of a jailed for­mer pres­i­dent, and for­mer World Bank economist Pe­dro Pablo Kuczyn­ski.

Fu­ji­mori’s lead over Kuczyn­ski, 77, melted away in re­cent days, evok­ing mem­o­ries of her close de­feat to out­go­ing Pres­i­dent Ol­lanta Hu­mala in 2011.

In opin­ion polls taken on Satur­day, Kuczyn­ski pulled slightly ahead of Fu­ji­mori, though the two re­mained in a sta­tis­ti­cal dead heat.

The 41-year-old Fu­ji­mori has spent the past five years seek­ing to broaden her ap­peal be­yond loy­al­ists to her fa­ther, Al­berto Fu­ji­mori, who is serv­ing a 25-year sen­tence for graft and hu­man rights abuses.

She kicked his staunch­est de­fend­ers off her party’s con­gres­sional ticket and has stepped up the move­ment’s pres­ence in prov­inces she lost to Left-lean­ing Hu­mala in 2011. Still, many vot­ers re­main wary, with some of Fu­ji­mori’s new as­so­ciates mired in fresh scan­dals.

“I re­mem­ber what her fa­ther was like, and I think she would be the same. He con­trolled the me­dia and was ex­tremely cor­rupt,” said An­gela Agrela, 23, a housewife who was vot­ing for Kuczyn­ski.

While both can­di­dates are fis­cal con­ser­va­tives who would main­tain a free-mar­ket model in the re­source-rich An­dean econ­omy, their styles and ap­proaches dif­fer wildly.

The elec­tion pits the Fu­ji­mori fam­ily’s brand of con­ser­va­tive pop­ulism against Kuczyn­ski’s elite back­ground and stiff tech­no­cratic style that has curbed his ap­peal in poor prov­inces and work­ing-class districts.

Fu­ji­mori, who has re­peat­edly said democ­racy is not at risk, has waged a more en­er­getic cam­paign than her ri­val, whirling out re­gional dances in far-flung vil­lages where she has promised to de­liver trac­tors, and por­tray­ing her ri­val as out-of-touch with strug­gling Peru­vians.

Many in ru­ral prov­inces have fond mem­o­ries of her fa­ther, who built schools and hos­pi­tals and is cred­ited with end­ing the vi­o­lent Shin­ing Path in­sur­gency.

The younger Fu­ji­mori has re­sponded to the top voter con­cern, crime, with a hard-line stance that in­cludes sup­port for the death penalty and prom­ises to lock up the most dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals in five new pris­ons she would have built high in the An­des.

Kuczyn­ski has por­trayed him­self as hon­est and ex­pe­ri­enced enough to make good on prom­ises to jump-start slug­gish eco­nomic growth, and cap­tured the anti-Fu­ji­mori vote de­spite hav­ing en­dorsed her over Hu­mala in 2011.

In a mes­sage posted on Face­book on Satur­day, he called for Peru­vians to de­fend democ­racy.

“Let’s close the path to the re­turn to dic­ta­tor­ship, cor­rup­tion and lies,” he said.

If he wins, Kuczyn­ski would have to reckon with a solid ma­jor­ity of Fu­ji­mori’s party in congress, and a left­ist al­liance that has promised not to align with either of them.

If re­cent his­tory is any guide, Fu­ji­mori has a good chance of ek­ing out a win. Ev­ery pres­i­dent since 2000 has first faced de­feat in a runoff race in the pre­vi­ous elec­tion.

“She’s ready and de­serves the chance to clear her fa­ther’s name,” said San­ti­ago Celez, a 70-year-old taxi driver. “Not by par­don­ing him as some think, but by sim­ply do­ing things right.”

(Mar­i­ana Bazo/Reuters)

A MAN CASTS his bal­lot in Peru’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion at a vot­ing sta­tion in Lima yes­ter­day.

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