The Fall of Fujimori and the Rise of Guzman: Are they enough to turn the tide in the Peruvian Presidential Elections?

Just one month before the Peruvian Presidential Elections, there is no denying Keiko Fujimori is the front-runner in current polls. However, the leading candidate is losing ground and the certainty with which political analysts predict her electoral victory is fading. 

Southern Pulse predicts with high confidence there will be a second-round election and Fujimori will receive enough votes in April 2016 to guarantee her a spot in the second round. However, while Fujimori still leads the polls, her numbers are falling. She received 30 percent in the most recent Ipsos survey in late February 2016, down from 33 percent in the previous poll.

Two factors play against Fujimori in the second round.

First, the anti-Fujimorista sentiment in the country is likely to grow, especially between the first and second round. Right now, Fujimori has no competition for the vote on her end of the ideological spectrum while the remaining candidates are battling for the rest of the pie. Once an anti-Fujimori option becomes clear, that candidate will begin with a narrow lead in the second-round elections.

Second, the internal political geography of Peru has the potential to seriously hurt Fujimori’s campaign. Lima is a political island, separated from the concerns of the rest of the country. A presidential candidate in Peru can do quite well in the elections by portraying himself as in touch with the country outside of the capital. For example, although Ollanta Humala lost the 2006 election, his anti-Lima campaign enabled him to rise in the polls and receive 47 percent of the vote in the second round. His anti-Lima campaign helped him to some extent come out victorious in the 2011 Presidential Elections.

Putting this into context, presidential hopeful Keiko Fujimori appeals largely to constituents in Lima; she is in favor of government involvement in the economic arena, an increase in public investment, and more aggressive intervention. If a candidate is able to build a strong enough anti-Lima campaign, one catering to the concerns of those living in rural areas and interior cities, it will make for a close race in the second-round elections.

With just weeks until the election, the anti-Fujimori, anti-Lima vote has begun to materialize with presidential hopeful Julio Guzman of the Todos por el Peru (TPP) political party.

Guzman has never been a candidate for a political office, but he did have two small stints in the public sector during Humala’s administration. Some denounce Guzman for his ties to the United States, as he lived in the country for many years while working at the Inter-American Development Bank. However, his strong support among young people, his clean background free of fraud, and his growing anti-Lima campaign have enabled him to climb the polls to second place.

Guzman currently stands with 18 percent of the vote, trailing behind Fujimori by 12 percentage points. Guzman’s competition is further behind, with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski receiving 9 percent of the vote, Cesar Acuna receiving 6 percent, and Alan Garcia receiving 5 percent.
Guzman’s 18 percent may not seem like much. However, if his second place ranking remains and gets him to the second round, the anti-Keiko votes for Kuczynski, Acuna, and Garcia in the first round will likely to go to Guzman in the second round. 

Two weeks ago, the Jurado Nacional de Elecciones (JNE) discovered the TPP organization failed to follow the administrative procedures required by federal law when organizing their October 2015 meeting to choose their presidential candidate. The JNE forced Guzman to halt his campaign. Many accused the JNE of giving more value to secondary regulations concerning trivial administrative procedures than to primary regulations concerning powerful concepts, like democracy and the people’s right to choose who they please as their party’s candidate. Meanwhile, those who supported the JNE and the disqualification of Guzman from the race believe that if he cannot fulfill simple legal administrative requirements, he will not be able to fulfill larger matters.

On 24 February, Peru’s Special Electoral Board (JEE) of Lima Centro 1 approved Guzman’s paperwork and he was back in the race. Even though Guzman had to halt to his campaign for several days, the case actually earned him additional attention and support among voters, increasing his popularity.

Julio Guzman stands a 50/50 chance at beating Keiko Fujimori if he makes it to the second round. Though there are many factors that could help or harm Guzman’s chances, it comes down to his ability to build a strong enough anti-Keiko and anti-Lima campaign. If Guzman is able to capitalize on the country’s anti-Fujimorista sentiment, a seat for him in the Government Palace may be likely.

*Update: After this piece was published, the JEE announced it found one of the nine allegations against Julio Guzman regarding his registration as a presidential candidate to be valid. The JEE has once again put a hold on Guzman’s campaign. He has three days to file an appeal. If Guzman’s appeal is in fact rejected and he is no longer in the race, Southern Pulse predicts most of the votes that would have gone to Guzman would go to current third placeman Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, closely followed by Keiko Fujimori.