An ultra-conservative millionaire who admits to flogging himself daily for suppressing sexual desire is just one of the many low-vote candidates who all have a shot at becoming Peru’s next president.
Rafael López Aliaga is technically tied with five other contenders in an unpredictable contests for a second round of voting in June, including a former goalkeeper, a Sorbonne-educated socialist and the daughter of the country’s jailed former leader Alberto Fujimori.
Sunday’s vote will take place in a second wave of Covid-19 which this week set a new record for daily deaths as the highly contagious Brazilian variant takes hold. Neighboring Chile has postponed a constituent assembly vote scheduled for the same day after an increase in cases.
Peruvians joke that they have long been used to voting for the lesser evil – or the lesser evil – but Hernán Chaparro, a political analyst, said that “this concept has been passed.”
“There isn’t even the least bad – people who vote don’t want it!” he said.
About 28% of Peruvians would not choose any of the candidates, according to a poll by the Institute for Peruvian Studies. Other polls show that the handling of the coronavirus pandemic by three different presidents – all amid a wave of political crises – has only deepened voter disenchantment.
“The pandemic has left a state with holes and enormously frustrated citizens, who reject politicians and are not very interested in the elections,” said Fernando Tuesta, professor of political science at the Pontifical Catholic University of Lima.
“Add to that the greatest number of candidates in living memory, who do not arouse passion and show more weaknesses than strengths. “
López Aliaga, financier and rail tycoon, drew comparisons with far-right figures like Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro (whom he rejects) and Donald Trump.
A member of the ultra-conservative Catholic group Opus Dei, López Aliaga has opposed same-sex marriage and pledged to deny abortion to underage rape victims, raising concerns among human rights activists also alarmed by its use of conspiracy theories, disinformation and hate speech against opponents and journalists.
López Aliaga’s candidacy may have stolen some right-wing votes from Keiko Fujimori, but Alberto Fujimori’s daughter emerged slightly ahead of the other five candidates, according to two latest polls released on Thursday.
A finalist in the 2011 and 2016 presidential elections, Fujimori herself has faced corruption allegations and spent months behind bars in pre-trial detention, though she is now under house arrest due to the pandemic. His father ruled Peru in the 1990s and was convicted of death squad murders and rampant corruption.
Hernando De Soto, 79, a radical free-market economist who received a pickaxe blow from Covid-19 in the United States while calling for the privatization of Peru’s vaccination program is vying for many of the same voters. Older Peruvians remember him as a key adviser to strongman Fujimori when he dissolved Congress and sent troops to the streets in 1992.
But polls show leftist Yonhy Lescano, 62, has the best chance of earning a spot in the second round. He belongs to the tarnished Acción Popular party, but has vehemently opposed his role in leading the Congress ousting former leader Martín Vizcarra in November, which sparked huge pro-pro protests. democracy.
For young voters, the options are largely daunting.
“It’s really complicated because a lot of applicants have a really bad reputation,” said Amiel Eduardo, 20, a nursing student at The Guardian.
Some young voters see leftist Verónika Mendoza, 40, as one of the most enlightened candidates in a conservative field – and one of the very few to support legal abortion and same-sex marriage. But the second candidate’s socialist economic policy worries some voters, and although she has criticized the authoritarian government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, some members of her party continue to defend it.
Finally, George Forsyth, 38, a former goalkeeper of football club Alianza Lima, also served for two years as mayor of La Victoria, a criminal district in the capital, before resigning to join the presidential race.
Voting is compulsory in Peru, but the turnout in this election is expected to be lower than in previous ones due to the Covid-19 pandemic, especially among older voters.
“Peruvians are so tired of corruption that they don’t believe in anyone,” said Natalia Sobrevilla, a Peruvian historian teaching at the University of Kent. “Because everyone votes so low and the differences [in votes] are so small that any change can really alter the outcome, ”she said.
Peruvians’ confidence in their elected officials is at an all time high after years of influence peddling and a string of presidents toppled. The Odebrecht scandal – in which a Brazilian construction company was found to have paid huge bribes across Latin America – led to the imprisonment of three former Peruvian presidents and the death of one another, Alan García, who was shot and killed rather than being arrested in 2019..
“In the past, we had a fragile democracy in Peru,” said Chaparro. “But now it’s in intensive care.”