Humala’s Victory in Peru’s Presidential Election Cause for Cautious Optimism

Ollanta HumalaCross-posted from the Tumblr site Peru Elections 2011.

With nearly 99.697 percent of the vote counted as of Wednesday morning, Ollanta Humala has maintained a three point lead over Keiko Fujimori, assuring his victory in Peru’s hotly contested presidential elections. Humala has maintained his three point lead, with 51.5 percent of the vote compared to 48.5 percent for Keiko Fujimori. Humala’s win was hailed by many as a victory for democracy and the promise of social justice. In the end, despite the highly polarized electoral climate, hope defeated fear.

Yet as noted by Peruvian analyst Carlos Basombrío, Humala’s honeymoon appears to be over before it even began. Despite the fact that he has yet to be declared the official winner, since Sunday night Fujimori supporters have been demanding that he announce his economic team in order to calm the nerves of national and international investors – this notwithstanding that key Humala advisors have repeatedly said that there will be no nationalizations or property confiscations and that they would ensure macroeconomic stability. Yesterday Humala announced his transition team, which will be led by his Vice Presidential candidate, Marisol Espinoza. The list reflects the diversity of views that his campaign came to represent, including, for example, more left-wing economists such as Félix Jiménez and Humberto Campodónico and the moderates who joined forces with Humala in the second round, such as Kurt Burneo, who was the deputy Economic Minister, and Daniel Schydlowsky, who was the head of the state bank, COFIDE, under the Toledo government.

Humala is already being pressured from all sides. He will have to implement the promises of his campaign to develop economic and social policies that will make Peru a more equitable and inclusive society – promises which brought him over 30 percent of the vote in the first round. But he won on Sunday by moving beyond his political base to gain support from more moderate sectors who in many instances voted for Humala in order to prevent Keiko Fujimori from being elected president, which they feared would mean a return to the corrupt and undemocratic practices of her father’s government. While some of these moderates support Humala’s core idea of the need to achieve a more just country, they may have very different ideas about how to achieve that change.

Humala is also under tremendous pressure from conservative economic elites who are threatening to withdraw investments from the country if he strays from economic orthodoxy and who will no doubt show resistance to even moderate policy change, such as increasing taxes on mining companies (hardly considered radical in Latin America today). Experiences in neighboring countries, such as Bolivia, give credence to concerns of attempts at economic sabotage by those staunchly opposed to Humala. Indeed, in her surprisingly late concession speech (although it was clear on Sunday night that Humala was poised to win the elections, Keiko Fujimori waited until 5:30 pm the next day to admit her defeat), Fujimori warned that she represents 48 percent of the population and that her supporters will insist on “continuity” with regards to the prevailing economic model.

Humala’s victory is a stunning metaphor for the long-standing divide between Lima and the rest of the country. In stark contrast to past Peruvian elections, as noted in Otra Mirada, for the first time Lima and the agro-export northern regions of the country did not determine the winner. Though he lost by a significant margin in Lima (where Fujimori got 58.4 percent of the vote) and in some northern departments, he won 17 of 26 regions outright, concentrated in the south, central and jungle regions of the country. He took Puno with 78 percent of the vote, Cusco with 75 percent, and Ayacucho with 73 percent. He won with over 60 percent of the vote in Apurímac, Arequipa, Huancavelica, Huánuco, Madre de Dios, Moquegua and Tacna. While it may be fair to say that Humala did not win a mandate for radical change, he certainly has a mandate for some change. In particular, he has a mandate to address the concerns of the provinces regarding the concentration of economic and political power in Lima.

Another major challenge Humala faces is a deeply fractured Congress, which since 1993 has been a unicameral body and now has 130 members. His Gana Peru coalition has 47 members of Congress. Humala thus lacks an outright majority that would allow him to easily implement his economic and social programs. He also faces a powerful and usually united opposition in Keiko Fujimori’s Fuerza 2011 which has 37 members, with potential allies among another 20 representatives from right-wing parties (including APRA’s four representatives), which will most likely try to block his social and economic proposals. However, the last-minute support thrown to Humala’s candidacy by former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo has allowed him to build at least a short-term coalition with Peru Posible’s 21 congressional representatives, which constitute the third largest block in Congress. That gives Humala a potential total of 68 votes in Congress, an extremely slim majority but a majority nonetheless. It remains to be seen whether or not Humala will be able to hold this coalition together in order to initiate crucial social and economic changes – and fend off the likely incessant attacks from the political opposition.

With the second largest voting bloc in Congress, Fujimori’s Fuerza 2011 is a political force to be reckoned with. Yet as Gustavo Gorriti asserts in IDL-Reporteros: “Despite the statistics, the defeat of fujimorismo leaves this movement with an uncertain future.” He points out that even with the support of Peru’s powerful economic sectors and business associations, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani (an outspoken member of Opus Dei), the major media and President Alan Garcia, Fujimori still lost the election.

Of particular significance for Keiko Fujimori is what now happens to her father. Securing his release from jail remains a primary objective of his supporters and now there will be even more pressure for some action to be taken before Humala assumes office on July 28. As we reported previously, it appears that the Constitutional Tribunal is poised to accept a writ of habeas corpus presented by Alberto Fujimori’s attorneys, which would amount to a revocation of the ratification of the original sentence. If that happens, a new trial to review the appeal of the April 2009 conviction would be held that could lead to Fujimori’s exoneration, or to a different sentence that could facilitate a presidential pardon.

Alternatively, Peru’s president could immediately pardon Fujimori. (Although Peruvian law prohibits pardons from being granted to those convicted of aggravated kidnapping, as was the case with Fujimori, and international law prohibits pardons from being granted to those convicted of crimes against humanity, it would hardly be the first time that a Peruvian president subverted the law.) Already, there are calls for Garcia to do just that. Just two days after the elections, APRA Congressman Jorge Vargas called on Garcia to pardon Fujimori on humanitarian grounds, due to his age and allegedly poor health. An opinion poll already shows that most Peruvians oppose granting a pardon to Fujimori. It would be a true mockery of the will of the Peruvian voters if after they rejected the return of fujimorismo, the convicted former president were set free.