It’s an election year. I can tell by how many of my Facebook friends have suddenly become political commentators. Poll results flash down my newsfeed, and no week is free of a scandalous headline.
There’s the outsider candidate and the female front-runner. There’s the underdog and the man who’s a bit too old. There’s the rookie politician and the former president’s relative.
But there’s no primaries. No caucuses. No Democrats or Republicans.
This election is taking place in Peru on April 10.
If you think the elections here in the U.S are going badly, wait until you hear about our candidates. Here’s a brief rundown, as explained Thursday at the Inter-American Dialogue think tank:
Leading the polls is Keiko Fujimori, a candidate from the center-right. Her father, Alberto Fujimori, was Peru’s president during the 1990s, but he is now in jail on corruption charges and for crimes against humanity committed during his time in office.
Then we have Julio Guzman, an economist and political newcomer who has just recently begun to rise in the polls. His candidacy is now in jeopardy after the election’s overseeing body found his party had not followed proper procedure when filing his papers. He might be prevented from running.
There’s Cesar Acuña, a businessman and the owner of several for-profit universities in Peru. He’s been accused of buying votes as well as plagiarizing his master’s and doctoral theses. For these reasons, he might also be prevented from running.
Close to Acuña are former government minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and former president Alan Garcia. The first is a 77-year-old economist who until recently held dual citizenship with the U.S. The latter has been president twice and has been involved in so many corruption probes it’s a wonder he’s not doing worse.
If this seems like too much information, it’s because it is. Peruvian voters are frequently confused and overwhelmed. Polls reflect that, showing big variations within small stretches of time. This list doesn’t even include all candidates, 18 total. So while some parallels can be drawn to the current electoral race here, our system is different in many ways.
Political parties are weak and short-lived, with most created only to serve a particular candidate. For example, Kuczynski’s party, Peruanos por el Kambio, matches his nickname and initials, PPK. It’s also not unusual to see a politician changing parties more than once during his career.
Everybody has to vote, or face a fine of about $25. If no candidate reaches 50 percent of the votes come April, the most likely scenario, a runoff election will take place in June. Our president-elect will take office July 28, 2016, the day of our national holiday.
Though there is an atmosphere of uncertainty, nothing about these elections is too far out of the ordinary. With immediate re-election forbidden, a change in candidates is welcomed and expected. Presidents usually end their term with very low approval ratings, despite Peru’s stable economic growth.
Only 16 percent of Peru’s 30 million citizens currently approve of President Ollanta Humala’s administration. By contrast, President Barack Obama’s approval rating stands at 44 percent. Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro has 32 percent approval.
Even more striking is that all of our main candidates have similar proposals. There’s not a big controversial divide. No far right or far left. They are all to the center, or close. They all support an open economy. Issues like immigration, national security, abortion and LGTB rights are barely, if ever, mentioned.
Instead, candidates focus on proposals targeting crime, corruption and inequality.
By April, two of the five leading candidates could be out of the race. Fujimori will probably make it to the second round, but who she will face is anyone’s guess. Whoever our next president is, while our political system remains unchanged, it’s likely we will hate him or her by the time the next election rolls around.
Reach reporter Karina Meier at [email protected] or 202-408-1491. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
This story has been updated to correct the dates of the run-off election and the inauguration.
Download photos: Peru-election.zip