Peru presidential victor Humala faces balancing act
After edging out Keiko Fujimori in one of the tightest elections in the country's history, Ollanta Humala will try to help the poorest Peruvians while still maintaining Peru's economic growth.
Ollanta Humala, a retired military officer, was elected president of Peru on Sunday. Humala's victory means a leftward shift in Peruvian policies, though he claims his model will not emulate Venezuela, as his critics fear.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Humala defeated Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori in one of the closest races in the country’s history, receiving slightly more than 51 percent of the votes with 88 percent of the vote counted. The tightest race before this contest was in 2006, when Humala lost to current President Alan Garcia by five points.
Humala won 17 of the country’s 26 regions, including massive victories in the southern highlands, coming close to 80 percent in several highly populated departments. Ms. Fujimori won in nine departments. Her most important victory was in Lima, the capital and home to one-third the population, where she scored a double-digit victory. She also carried the voter-rich northern coastal departments.
Humala now has to begin crafting an administration that will be closely watched by the business sector and much of the media, which were openly hostile to his candidacy, and supporters who voted for change in the economic model. It will not be easy.
“I voted for Humala, but I am still not sure,” said Edwin Lozada, a college student studying electrical engineering. “I agree with him that more people need to benefit from economic growth, but if he tries to do too much, things could get out of control and everyone will lose.”
Peru’s economy expanded by nearly 9 percent in the first quarter of this year, and the forecast for the full year is 7 percent, which is slower but will still gives the country one of the strongest growth rates in the world. Exports are growing at a record clip, inflation is within the three-point target for the year, and foreign reserves are close to $50 billion.
Humala won, despite these impressive numbers, because the vast majority of Peruvians – even those who voted for his opponent – do not feel that they have benefitted from 10 years of economic growth.
An antiestablishment election
Hernando de Soto, Peru’s best-known economist and a Fujimori adviser, said that Humala and Fujimori topped the first round of voting in April and competed in Sunday's runoff because average Peruvians want a larger slice of economic growth.
“The two antiestablishment candidates won in April because government policies have not favored the poorest. The past two administrations were caretaker governments, watching only macroeconomic numbers. This is what has led to so much social resentment in the country,” Mr. de Soto said.