Peru: April elections end in two-way presidential run-off and a fragmented Congress
April 20, 2021
The general elections on 11 April have produced a fragmented Congress and a presidential race where no candidate won more than 20% of the votes, resulting in a run-off election between the top two candidates in June. With virtually all votes counted, Pedro Castillo of Perú Libre came out on top, taking slightly more than 19% of the votes, with Keiko Fujimori of Fuerza Popular in second place after taking just over 13% of the voting share. The low voting totals reflect the lack of strong convictions among an electorate which was more certain about who they would not vote for than who they would: Nearly 18% of total votes were either blank or void, while pre-election rejection rates of the top presidential candidates ranged from 40–70%. Nevertheless, it is the far-left and relative outsider Pedro Castillo and the right-wing former first lady Keiko Fujimori who beat more moderate candidates and will thus go head-to-head in the hope of being sworn in as president at the end of July. All said, however, a highly divided Congress will likely make policy implementation challenging, regardless of the winner.
Pedro Castillo came from a low pre-election ranking—he had not featured in the top six candidates in polling data during the run-up to election day—to take the largest share of votes. Castillo campaigned on a socialist platform that intends to rewrite the country’s constitution, increase the role of the state in the economy, and use nationalization as a tool to gain more control over the country’s strategic industries such as mining and oil extraction. His anti-establishment rhetoric appears to have garnered support from Peru’s rural areas, but could make it difficult to attract centrist voters in more urban areas who comprise a significant proportion of the electorate.
On the other side of the political divide, Keiko Fujimori is the candidate who has polled with the highest rejection rate among voters. She has run for president twice before and is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for human rights abuses during his 10-year term. Keiko herself has been imprisoned three times in recent years on contested corruption charges. She presents more market-friendly economic policies, while also favoring a crackdown on crime and an end to pandemic-related lockdowns. Her more established nature could see her win the endorsement of more moderate candidates to acquire a bigger share of the vote in June.
Whoever wins, they will be faced with a fragmented Congress that could act as both an impediment to efficient governing, but also a moderator on the more radical policies proffered by either of the presidential candidates. Castillo’s Perú Libre party took the largest share of votes at just over 14%, with Fujimori’s Fuerza Popular party in second place with 11% of the count. A variety of other parties look likely to make up the legislature’s 130 seats.
Regarding the presidential run-off, Alberto Ramos, economist at Goldman Sachs, commented:
“In the coming weeks market attention will be focused on potential political alliances ahead of the runoff and whether Pedro Castillo moderates his political speech and policy proposals. Key to the outcome of the election is whether Ms. Fujimori receives the endorsement of right-wing conservative Mr. Lopez Aliaga and centrist Mr. De Soto, who are expected to get approximately 23% of the vote.”
Author: Stephen Vogado, Economist