Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, spoke with CGTN about the early exit numbers from the 2021 Peruvian presidential election. The conversation covered what a win for Keiko Fujimori would mean for the future of Peru and Fujimorismo, and what the Peruvian presidential election means to the rest of Latin America.
COMMENTS FROM MICHAEL SHIFTER:
Question (Q): It would be quite remarkable if Keiko Fujimori is able to win this presidential election. Keiko Fujimori ran in the Peruvian presidential elections of 2011 and 2016. She is facing charges of funding fraud from her past campaigns, and a possible prison sentence. What do you make of all of this?
Answer (A): Keiko Fujimori is a damaged, diminished, and weak candidate, but this election has been an election dominated by the fear of the other—fear of communism from Pedro Castillo and fear of Fujimorismo from Keiko Fujimori. Fujimori’s main campaign tactic has been associating Pedro Castillo with communism. She has been saying to Peruvians that if they have Castillo as the next president of Peru, then they are going to have another Venezuela. This tactic seems to have had some impact. It’s not that Peruvians are enthusiastic about Keiko Fujimori either, which I think is important to understand. One has to determine these preliminary results as Peruvians saying that she may be the lesser of the two evils.
Q: This is quite fascinating to see how far Keiko Fujimori has come from behind. She has said that she would pardon her father Alberto Fujimori if elected president. What does this mean for the future of Fujimorismo?
A: If Keiko Fujimori continues on the path of Fujimorismo as we known it so far and try to do another Fujimori government, it is going to be a complete failure. There is clearly an enormous social discontent and disgust with corruption in the country. She has to change course if she is the next president of Peru. If she doesn’t change course, then I think you’ll looking at a very volatile situation in Peru with widespread social conflict and street protests. The country will turn out to be ungovernable and that would be a disaster for the country and Fujimorismo. The big question is: if she turns out to be the next president would she change course, make some reforms in the economic model, and try to address the enormous needs of people that have been aggravated by the devastating effects of this pandemic.
Q: Is either one of these candidates poised to deal with the destructive consequences of Covid-19 in Peru?
A: Neither Keiko Fujimori nor Pedro Castillo can deal with these consequences alone. The campaign has been very disappointing because the already serious polarization in Peru has become increasingly dangerous. Whoever wins needs the opposition. The other half cannot be ignored if there is any chance of addressing a country that has been so ravaged by Covid-19 in terms of economic, health, and institutional political crises. If either Keiko Fujimori or Pedro Castillo tries to resolve these consequences without reaching and engaging other Peruvians—including those that voted for the losing candidate — it is going to be doomed to fall. This will be a major test and challenge for whoever is the next president of Peru.
Q: Who is interested in these election results regionally and internationally?
A: I think a lot of Latin Americans are watching this election very closely because Peru is in an extreme case of polarization, which we have also seen with Mexico in their midterm elections. Colombia and Brazil will have presidential elections in 2022, so Colombians and Brazilians are looking at the Peruvian presidential election closely. Peru was really an extreme case of polarization, and with it, democracy, the democratic system, and governability are on the line. When the region is going through a profound crisis, the question is can these countries overcome polarization, find a middle ground, and try to reach consensus. Otherwise, it is very difficult to see how these problems are going to be affectively addressed. I think a lot of people are looking at it. There are a lot of investors who are also looking at Peru. There is a lot at stake in the country as Peru has had one of the more successful economic performances in the region until the last couple of years. People are asking if Peru will continue to have an open economy and welcome private foreign investment. Those are big questions. I think it will depend on the capacity of Peruvians to come together and reach a minimum consensus in order to avoid a breakdown of their democratic system and a backsliding of so much that the country has been gained over the last decades.