AS/COA Online | Peru's Race for the Presidency Heats up

Voters in Peru won’t head to the polls to elect their next president until April 2011, but competition is already heating up as more top contenders join the race and with former President Alejandro Toledo announcing his candidacy on November 10. He vies for the top seat against a number of candidates, including the current poll leader and two-term Mayor of Lima Luis Castañeda; Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of incarcerated ex-President Alberto Fujimori; former candidate Ollanta Humala; and Mercedes Aráoz, the ex-finance minister of the García administration. The crowded playing field could lead to a June runoff vote to determine who will next lead the Andean country.

Toledo used social media tools to announce that he would officially launch his candidacy Wednesday, informing followers via Twitter and Facebook of his intentions. Though he trails in third place with 16 percent in the latest poll, the survey was conducted before he officially joined the race. He could form a coalition between his own party, Peru Posible, and three others. He is credited with laying the groundwork for Peru’s economic boom. Still, current President Alan García, who narrowly lost to Toledo in 2001, was among those who criticized his predecessor for falling short on creating a more socially equitable society in Peru. Now Toledo is leveling the same complaint against the current government, recently telling the Financial Times: “The common citizen, particularly in the rural areas, says ‘I don’t understand how come we are doing so well, we are exporting, we are signing free trade agreements with China, with Thailand, with South Korea—and I don’t feel it in my pocket.’”

But Toledo could see a challenge from the governing American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA). About a week before he joined the race, Garcia’s former finance minister threw her hat into the ring. Although Aráoz polls at roughly 3 percent now, she is expected to see her popularity rise. Economist Intelligence Unit suggests that she would snag centrist votes from Castañeda and Toledo and that she “represents continuity with the successful economic policies of the García government, which have led to strong economic growth and the expansion of the urban middle class.” The decrease in poverty that began during the Toledo government continued under Garcia’s—and Aráoz’s—watch, falling from 48.6 percent to 34.8 percent between 2004 and 2009.

Both Aráoz and Toledo face challenges from the frontrunners. Castañeda polls in the lead with 26 percent support. Credited with overseeing the capital’s renaissance while mayor, his government pushed programs focused on public-private partnerships, public works projects such as the planting of one million trees downtown, and improved access to transportation and healthcare. Trailing two points behind him is Keiko Fujimori, the conservative legislator and daughter of Alberto Fujimori, who governed from 1990 to 2000 and remains incarcerated for human rights abuses. She caused a stir by suggesting that, if elected, she would pardon her father. Ollanta Humala, who lost in a close runoff vote to García during the last election, is polling in fourth place with 11 percent support. Often compared to Latin American leftist leaders, Humala told Latin American News Dispatch in August that he considers himself neither “left nor right.”

The shape of the presidential race will continue to shift, but two deadlines loom: political parties must register alliances by December 10, 2010 and all candidates must officially register by January 10, 2011. Voters will also elect 130 legislators.

Learn more:

  • Americas Society and Council of the Americas hosted our annual conference in Lima. Read a summary to learn more about Peru’s economic and investment policies.
  • Website of Peru’s Office of Electoral Processes.
  • ElectionGuide’s informational page about the April 2011 election.
  • Elecciones Peru offers election-specific coverage as well as candidate profiles.