Populist Humala, Leading in Peru Presidential Elections, at Mercy of Swing Voters

Cross-posted from Peru Elections 2011, a Tumblr site of the WOLA Electoral Observation Delegation.

The latest poll, taken yesterday, confirms the trends of the past few days of a strong lead for Ollanta Humala, with Keiko Fujimori pulling out slightly ahead of the remaining candidates for second place in Peru’s elections schedule for tomorrow. The poll, taken by Ipsos APOYO, shows Humala at 28.1 percent and Keiko Fujimori at 21.1 percent. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski polls in at 19.9 percent, with Toledo falling to 16.8 percent. These results reflect the valid votes emitted at a simulated vote using paper ballots.

If these results hold, Humala and Fujimori will go to a second round vote on June 5. However, the margin of error is close enough that it is conceivable thatKuczynski could come in second place. In addition, some analysts suggest that Toledo’s supporters may vote for Kuczynski, which could propel him into second place. One reason might be a strategic calculation to prevent Fujimori from making it into the second round. Another analyst told us that some people are rethinking their vote based on a different calculus: “¿por qué subir con el chofer del auto si puedo subir con el dueño del auto?” In other words, why go for a ride with the chauffeur of the car when you can get a ride with the owner? This reflects Kuczynski’s profile as a member of Peru’s transnationalized, wealthy elite.

However, the reality is that these are the most volatile elections in recent Peruvian history. There is still a high percentage of undecided votes, even at this late date. In addition, election analysts told us that up to fifty percent of those approached by pollsters refused to participate in pre-election surveys, and it is quite unclear what this will mean for the results of tomorrow’s elections.

And, many voters are only loosely committed to their preferred candidates. For example, one 30-year old man from Villa El Salvador told us that he was planning to vote for Toledo but had changed his mind because of some declaration Toledo had made the day before. Now, he says, he might vote forKuczynski. Or, on second thought, he might vote for Fujimori.

It is a sad reflection of the current political scenario that Peruvians could conceivably vote into office Keiko Fujimori, someone so closely associated with a past government known for massive corruption, abuse of power, and crimes against humanity.

Coletta A. Youngers is the Latin America Regional Associate with the International Drug Policy Consortium and a Senior Fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Jo-Marie Burt is an Associate Professor at George Mason University and also a WOLA Senior Fellow.