By Paula Bayarte
Lima, Sep 21 (EFE) – A deep cynicism reigns on the streets of Peru ahead of next month’s regional and municipal elections, with most people slamming the country’s political class as hopelessly corrupt and saying virtually no candidates deserve their support.
“I don’t know who I’m going to vote for because there are no proper candidates,” Manuel, a street fruit vendor in a working-class Lima neighborhood, told Efe.
Asked what he is looking for in the next mayor of this capital, he said “someone without a (criminal past) who has done something for his people would be enough,” though adding that none of the candidates are to his liking.
Regional and municipal elections are scheduled to be held on Oct. 2.
But despite their proximity, there has been a striking lack of political rallies and a notable absence of headline-grabbing proposals by the candidates.
The only indication of the upcoming balloting is the presence of campaign signs, particularly in poorer neighborhoods and small municipalities, as well as some traffic-blocking public works projects.
Those latter initiatives are also viewed cynically by a jaded electorate, who say they are a telltale sign that elections are around the corner.
Manuel’s sentiments are echoed by most other ordinary citizens, who say they assume all politicians are corrupt. Indeed, the level of distrust is so high that voter participation would inevitably be very low if the country did not have compulsory voting laws.
“There will aways be corruption, whether the candidate is good or bad. The only way to vote for a non-corrupt candidate is to vote for the last one on the list,” Gamaliel joked while standing outside a shopping mall in this capital with his wife, who said she will vote for the current mayor of the Lima district of Chorrillos even though he is ineligible to run again.
The indifference of voters contrasts with an ongoing intense political crisis that is now the main focus of news coverage in Peru.
“They’re all scoundrels. All my life they’ve done the same. I’ve lived here since 1952, and there hasn’t been one good candidate. They’re all thieves. It’s a shame. I won’t vote. I’m 81 years old and I’ve always gone (to cast a ballot), but I don’t need anyone anymore because I live happily with my work. A total change is needed,” one passer-by, Manuel Sialer, said.
Another woman riding in a combi (a small minibus) who preferred to remain anonymous said she will cast a blank ballot because “these mayors come in, steal and do nothing.”
One teenager Efe spoke to expressed similar disgust with the political class.
“Young people aren’t very interested. They’re into their own things and vote just to vote,” Jair Manosalva, a 19-year-old from Peru’s northern coastal region, told Efe outside a Lima gym. “They’ve disappointed us too much. We don’t care about them anymore. So whoever wins is going to be the same as the next one or the one who just left.”
The front runners in Lima mayor’s race are Daniel Urresti, a retired army general and former interior minister; and Rafael Lopez Aliaga, a businessman and right-wing populist.
Both have pledged to battle corruption and crime if elected.
Agustin Luyo, a shoe shiner in Villa Maria del Triunfo, says the fight against street crime is the top priority for residents of that low-income district on Lima’s south side.
Guillermo, who spoke to Efe on the opposite side of the city, said he is voting for Lopez Aliaga because that candidate will “clean up corruption” and “improve public safety.” EFE