Elections 2021: Peru looks to an ultra-conservative turn before the second presidential round | International

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Keiko Fujimori and Pedro Castillo, the candidates who will contest the second presidential round in Peru.EFE

Peruvian politics is usually in the throes of a crisis, but since 2016 institutional instability has hit it harder. Peru has had four presidents since then, and most politicians use Congress to block possible investigations and trials of party leaders, most of them over corruption cases. The scenario worsens before the second round of the presidential elections, scheduled for June. The tiebreaker between the radical teacher Pedro Castillo and the right-wing Keiko Fujimori condemns the country to have a socially conservative government. Both, from an opposite ideological spectrum, are against gender equality, same-sex marriage and reject abortion. Not only whoever becomes president will carry his conservative ideas, Congress will have, for the first time, a bench of the Catholic far right.

As of July 28, Peru will have a populist and conservative president, regardless of whether Fujimori, daughter of the autocrat Alberto Fujimori and accused of money laundering, wins, or the rural teacher and trade unionist Castillo. With the 95% scrutiny, he obtained 19% of the votes and his opponent 13%, 26 points less than those obtained in the 2016 elections. 12% of voters left their ballot blank and there were 28% absenteeism even though voting is mandatory.

The teacher who defends from radical left positions a strong state, the end of private monopolies and the end of "labor exploitation" is deeply intransigent in the face of social progress. He has repeatedly spoken out against the gender equality approach in the school educational curriculum and equal marriage. He also affirmed during the campaign that he is legislating on abortion or dignified death. From the right, his competitor has promised a "strong hand" against crime and pardon his father – imprisoned with a 25-year prison sentence for crimes of corruption, robbery and homicides committed during his government in a context of serious violations of human rights-.

In her third attempt as a presidential candidate, Fujimori also opposes equal marriage and claims to be a defender of the family, to explain that she is not interested in promoting or recognizing the rights of the LGTBI population and less in abortion under the assumption of rape. Since 2018, the Prosecutor's Office has investigated the Fujimori leader for money laundering because she received contributions of millions of dollars from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht and from a Peruvian financial group for her presidential campaigns in 2011 and 2016.

The Andean country is also going through the peak of the second wave of the covid-19 pandemic, with a deficit of oxygen and intensive care beds and a slow vaccination process. "The elected Congress is much more conservative than we have had in recent years and fragmented. This correlation is interesting because it is very likely that the conservative sectors will achieve a parliamentary majority to give sustainability to a Fujimori government or to hold a tough opposition to the Castillo government, ”explains lawyer and professor Juan de la Puente.

According to the projections of the Lima press, based on the quick count of Ipsos Peru and the partial scrutiny of the National Office of Electoral Processes, the Peru Libre formation, with which Castillo ran, would have the largest number of seats, between 32 and 35 , followed by Fuerza Popular – led by Fujimori – which would have a bench of 24 congressmen. The Parliament in Peru is unicameral and has 130 members. Castillo is an elementary school teacher and union leader who jumped onto the national scene in 2017 during a two-month-long teachers' strike demanding better wages and working conditions.

The third party with the highest representation would be Popular Action, for which Yohny Lescano nominated: a political formation without a single doctrine, fractured in two since the 2016 elections. This division deepened last November when a sector led to the overthrow of the Government of Martín Vizcarra as a result of the Prosecutor's Office investigating him for bribes that, according to the accusation, he received when he was regional governor.

The political group headed by presidential candidate César Acuña, with several of its militants sentenced or investigated for common crimes and corruption, would place 14 parliamentarians, and Renovación Popular, of the far-right businessman and member of Opus Dei Rafael López Aliaga, would win 13 representatives. López Aliaga flatly rejects abortion, even in the case of rape, and proposed that girls who were pregnant due to rape should be accommodated in their five-star hotels so that they could later give birth ”.

Congress will have a radical fundamentalist group like López Aliaga's. It is the first time that they have reached their own representation as a religious and radical party. The Legislature will lack the power to prevent some controversial decisions regarding the rescission of rights and freedoms. Peru's conservative turn is more noticeable than Congress, although perhaps its first expressions will be the election of the Ombudsman and the Constitutional Court, "adds analyst De la Puente. The former head of the Organization of Electoral Processes, Fernando Tuesta, projects that 11 political groups will have representation in the new Parliament, although at least a couple of them could lose the electoral registry according to the latest recent ones. Despite the arrival of more conservatives to Parliament and the lack of interest in the social agenda and green politics on the part of the parties that will have more representation, the journalist and political scientist Enrique Patriau estimates that the current Congress will not be worse. "But yes: Peru is reluctant to stop looking at the abyss," he says.

A refuge Congress

Former President Martín Vizcarra, who is facing two investigations by the Prosecutor's Office, one for crimes allegedly committed in 2014 and another during his tenure as president, is one of those virtually elected to Congress who will use that forum to defend himself. In addition, the leader of Podemos Peru, José Luna Gálvez, also under investigation by the Public Ministry for money laundering and illegal registration of his political party, would access a seat. From there he can maintain networks that allow him to neutralize the action of justice, as does his son José Luna, current congressman of the same group.

Another chosen one is the Fujimorist Alejandro Aguinaga, personal doctor of the autocrat Alberto Fujimori, whom the Prosecutor's Office accused in March – like the former president – for crimes related to forced sterilizations against poor and indigenous women during the second Fujimori government in the decade. of the nineties. The crimes are against life, body and health in the form of serious injuries, followed by death, in the context of serious human rights violations.

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