Leftist Humala leads Peru election polls, but undecided voters could cause upset
Eleven percent of the electorate was still undecided ahead of today's Peru election, a fact that could swing the vote away from leading candidate Ollanta Humala.
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The congresswoman is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), the son of Japanese immigrants who is currently serving 25 years in prison for a conviction on human rights abuses. He was also sentenced to shorter terms for corruption during his 10-year regime.Skip to next paragraph
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Most candidates would run away from that kind of record, but Ms. Fujimori has actually embraced it even more strongly as the race has ended. One of her last ads featured her father’s voice. The gamble is that voters will remember the elder Fujimori vanquishing inflation and terrorism in the early 1990s, and not the president who fled Peru and the presidency for Japan in November 2000.
All three candidates expect to beat Humala if they make it to the runoff. He also took first place in 2006, but went on to lose in a runoff to current President Alan García, who is barred from seeking a second, consecutive term. Ms. Fujimori’s father also placed second in the first round of his initial run in 1990, coming from nowhere to beat the odds-on favorite, Mario Vargas Llosa, in the final run-off vote.
Mr. Vargas Llosa, an acclaimed novelist who won the first Nobel prize for Peru last year, recently endorsed Toledo. He has called a Fujimori-Humala runoff like having to choose between terminal cancer and AIDS.
Humala brushes off the insults and has refused to attack his opponents, saying that all the candidates in the race have contributed to strengthening the country’s democracy by running.
Humala taps into concerns, but Chávez is liability
Giovanna Peñaflor, heading of the IMASEN polling company, says Mr. Humala, despite what his critics say, has run the best campaign. “He has offered the most disciplined, consistent message and has focused on the issues voters have mentioned,” he says.
While the other leading candidates have talked about maintaining the policies that have led to Peru’s rapid economic growth – the economy is expected to expand by more than 9 percent in the first quarter of this year – Humala tapped into widespread discontent that the numbers are good, but the growth has not trickled down. He is the only candidate who has pledged to change the economic program, as well as increase the minimum wage, create a pension plan for retirees who were never on a payroll, and add a new national daycare program for infants, all programs that have helped him more than double his poll numbers in the past month.
Alfredo Torres, of the Ipsos Apoyo polling firm, says Humala also capitalized on the growing concern with crime. “Security is a central issue for voters and they are looking for a candidate who can improve things. This has benefitted Humala,” he says.
There are reasons, however, why 70 percent of the population is looking at other candidates.
First among them is fear that Humala is too close to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and would like to implement that socialist model here. He spiritedly denied that to foreign reporters on April 8, albeit adding that he has no problem with Mr. Chávez. “We respect the president, but not the model. We don’t believe in reelection, we don’t believe in controlling the exchange rate, we don’t believe in the executive having control over the central reserve bank,” he said.
The Chávez card will be played up big after the April 10 voting, says Ms. Peñaflor. “The presence of Chávez was not that noticeable in the first round, but the media will make a big deal and Humala will have to respond,” she says.