Peru’s Fujimori floundering in the polls while stoking fears of communism

By Alvaro Mellizo

Lima, Apr 27 (EFE).- Polls show that three-time presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori is heading for a possible landslide defeat in Peru’s June 6 presidential runoff, the consequence, analysts say, of a campaign strategy that thus far has been overly focused on stirring up fears of communism.

Six weeks before facing off at polling places against surprise leftist candidate Pedro Castillo, the president of the right-wing Popular Force party and daughter of imprisoned former head of state Alberto Fujimori finds herself between 11 and 20 percentage points behind her rival in voter preference surveys.

Indeed, the gap between Fujimori and Castillo is wider than the gap between the conservative candidate and the proportion of voters who plan to cast a blank ballot.

Furthermore, roughly 55 percent of those polled indicate they would never vote for Fujimori compared with 35 percent utterly opposed to Castillo, a union leader and teacher who has widespread support among the country’s poor.

Her campaign is in crisis despite overwhelming backing from Peru’s media, which has portrayed the ideas of Castillo’s Free Peru party as dangerously radical.

Even so, one point in Fujimori’s favor is that now that a Castillo presidency is a realistic possibility he will face growing pressure to spell out his policy proposals.

But for her to make up lost ground, analysts agree that she needs to substantially alter her campaign strategy and proposals.

“These weeks of anti-communist messaging aren’t working for Keiko, probably because she’s preaching to the choir, to middle- and upper-class Lima residents, and that’s not the way to convince that large majority who don’t see her as an option,” sociologist Sandro Venturo told Efe.

Urpi Torrado, manager of Datum Internacional, one of Peru’s largest polling firms, also said Castillo carries less baggage as a fresh face in the country’s political scene.

“Castillo is a new candidate who is generating a lot of interest. Keiko is a candidate for the third time, and she’s already been in a lot of campaigns where all the good and bad have come out,” she said.

Venturo expressed Fujimori’s difficulties in another way.

“For a message to succeed, you need two conditions: the messenger must be credible and the message must respond to the expectations. She’s a messenger without credibility, and secondly (her message) doesn’t respond to the concerns of the large majority of Peruvians. If that continues, (her support) won’t grow and may even shrink,” the sociologist said.

Mired in severe public health, economic and political crises, Peruvians are demanding change, according to Venturo.

But he said Fujimori is presenting herself as the candidate who will ensure a return to the neo-liberal (market-led) model installed by her father. And in so doing she is “closing the door for saying she has experience, that she can reform or improve things and … can attend to people’s demands.”

For Fujimori to win, she also will need to show humility and own up to the political damage she caused with her party’s confrontations with two recent presidents, Venturo said.

He was referring to the political turmoil caused when a Popular Force-dominated Congress forced Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to resign in 2018 and then – after then-President Martin Vizcarra dissolved Congress in 2019 as part of his widely popular anti-corruption drive – joined other parties in removing him via impeachment last year in what many Peruvians regard as a legislative coup. EFE


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