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April 7, 2021


PERU: Key considerations ahead of 11 April first round presidential vote

BY Nicholas Watson

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The final two polls by Ipsos and IEP ahead of the 11 April first round presidential vote point to an extraordinarily tight race. According to the Ipsos poll undertaken on 31 March, only 3.5 points separate poll leader Yonhy Lescano from fifth-placed Keiko Fujimori. An IEP poll conducted on 1-2 April has just 2.5 points separating the top five. Both polls have a +/- 2.8% margin of error.

The race is remarkably fluid. Lescano appears to have lost momentum while Hernando de Soto appears to be the candidate with the most impetus. Ipsos has de Soto in second place to Lescano, while IEP has de Soto in joint first (with Fujimori). Note that the Ipsos poll was completed before the third candidates’ debate last week, which featured a stilted performance from the ultra-conservative Rafael Lopez Aliaga, who could lose votes to de Soto – something the IEP poll may have captured better than Ipsos.

Amid widespread apathy and indecision, exacerbated by restrictions on campaigning due to the pandemic, many voters will only make up their minds this week. A positive result in the final polls can have an outsize effect as voters look to back who they perceive as a winner. This is why de Soto’s late climb into contention could be significant, though it could also engender a counter effect as left-leaning support consolidates around the progressive candidate seen as best placed to defeat de Soto – presumably Lescano.

If Fujimori makes the top two, whoever her rival is would be automatic favorite to win the eventual June run-off vote. Fujimori has the highest rejection ratings of any candidate – by one count as much as 60%. However, Fujimori cannot be dismissed entirely. If her rival was Veronika Mendoza, Fujimori could hope to re-cast herself as a bulwark against radical leftism and attract de Soto and Lopez Aliaga voters, as well as some Forsyth supporters.

Given the level of uncertainty going into the first-round vote – combined with polling limitations – there is greater-than-normal potential for a surprise or upset. Given Lescano’s position in recent weeks, it would be something of an upset if he failed to make it into the top two. One figure who has not featured in our previous round-up of candidates but who Ipsos has rising to sixth place is Pedro Castillo, a radical leftist representing the Peru Libreparty, which advocates the nationalization of strategic sectors of the economy and is calling for a new constitution.

The Congress that will emerge from the 11 April vote is likely to be fragmented and unwieldy. Ipsos suggests that as many as 12 parties could pass the 5% threshold. IEP has eight parties gaining representation. Bear in mind that nine parties won seats in 2020 and six in 2016 – though party schisms and the formation of new groups meant that both legislatures elected in 2020 and 2016 ended up with more parties. Popular Action (AP) – Lescano’s party – looks set to win the biggest bloc but not anywhere near a majority. Unless the polls are wrong, no party would achieve a 44-strong bloc without cross-party alliances; 44 votes are needed to protect a president from impeachment. Finally, new legislators are likely to lack experience; a study of the more than 3,000 congressional candidates has revealed that only 42 have previously served as legislators.

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