Peru’s 2011 Presidential elections are almost upon us. April 10 is the big day, and I believe tonight is the final televised debate between the leading candidates.
Let me say 2 things first:
1) I am a guest in Peru so it doesn’t matter to me who wins or loses. I’m privileged to be here and however the Peruvian people choose to govern their country is up to them.
2) I’m Belgian, so you should never take my advice on any matters of politics or government. When it comes to politics, the only thing we Belgians can say is “Thank God for Italy!”
Having said all that, here’s a few notes about the leading candidates in Peru’s upcoming 2011 Presidential elections, for no purpose other than to show how the candidates come across to a gringo. Official bios, photos, web pages and the like can be found here.
1) Alejandro Toledo: He was Peru’s president from 2001 to 2006 and was first Peruvian president of native Indian (Quechua) heritage, but his politics were free-market oriented. He left office to rather low approval ratings, due to the fact that many felt the macro-economic gains that were made did not extend to all Peruvians. On the other hand, nothing bad or particularly controversial happened during his tenure, which was a welcome change from the late 20th century. He’s considered a strong candidate in the upcoming elections, but I know someone who knows some people who know Toledo and say less than favorable things about him.
2) Lucho Castañeda: He was mayor of Lima (home to about 30% of Peru’s population) from 2003 to 2010 and enjoyed generally good approval ratings, easily winning re-election. He implemented the Metropolitano bus system in Lima, which has to be regarded as a great success – although it’s only a small first step in Lima’s transportation solution. Otherwise I don’t know much about Castañeda’s ideology. He’s divorced and conventional wisdom says he has little chance of becoming president without a first lady.
3) Ollanta Humala: He’s the villain of them all, widely painted by his opponents as a “leftist” of the same mold of Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez. Humala narrowly lost the 2006 Presidential elections. He seems to have moderated his stance on some issues like foreign investment, but he remains a controversial figure. His opponents and the establishment in general paint a sad picture of Peru heading for the same abyss as Bolivia under Evo Morales should Ollanta Humala be elected, ignoring the fact that Bolivia has one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America and Evo enjoys high approval ratings. But since when does reality trump ideology in this world? Of all the leading candidates Humala is the only one who’s married to a Peruvian, so at least outside of politics he has good judgement 😉
4) Keiko Fujimori: She’s the daughter of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori. Her father was president from 1990 to 2000, when he was driven out of the country by a popular revolution. During Alberto Fujimori’s regime, Peru saw an end to terrorism and the economic chaos of the 1980s, but his regime was also marked by human rights abuse and corruption, especially in later years. Keep in mind that Peru has a very young population (partly due to the stability that was brought under Fujimori) and something like 20% of the voting public has no adult memory of Fujimori’s presidency. However, there has remained a strong “Fujimori” following and political party in Peru, led now by his daughter Keiko. I don’t know much about Keiko’s ideological convictions, but her VP candidate is ultra-conservative. I guess Keiko has a chance only if someone can be elected president just for being the child of a well-known ex-president. Eerrrgh, wait, where did I see that one before?
5) PPK or Pedro Pablo Kuczynski: He’s Patricia’s favorite, and the favorite of many of her friends as well. I have a PPK poster on the window, but my dog barks at it. It has to be said my dog is one of the dumber dogs you’ll ever meet. In seriousness, PPK is perhaps the most Western of all the leading candidates. He held US citizenship (I think he renounced it before the elections) and has worked on Wall Street. He has a free-market ideology and as minister of economy under Toledo should take some credit for the macro-economic gains that Peru has made. Although I’m not a fan of this ideology (ie. what’s good for business is good for everyone), I have to say that PPK appears to be a thoughtful and reasonable person, and considering his age and previously successful career I would be more inclined to believe that he’s running to serve the country as opposed to running in order to make financial gain for himself and his inner circle.
Finally, it always strikes me how so many politicians no matter where you are would like you to believe the world as you know it would end without their magnificent leadership. Consider this quote from the Ottawa Citizen about Belgian politics, titled No Government, No Problem:
Take Belgium, for instance. It’s a European country riven by ethnic tensions. Its public debt is almost as big as its total annual output and it’s in the middle of a political crisis so deep that this week it passed Iraq as the modern-day state whose politicians have taken the longest to form a government.
Yet the buses run more or less on time, the garbage is collected twice a week, exports of pharmaceuticals, chocolate and beer have gone on without interruption and it can still take about a month to get a new telephone line. Life goes on.
And that quote is more than a month old by now, still no Belgian government, beer exports are still going on fine 😉