A leftist former army officer and a right-wing politician close to her jailed ex-president father are headed for the second round of Peru's presidential vote. DW spoke to a Latin America expert on the likely outcome.
More than a third of Peruvians still live in poverty despite over a decade of growth
The German political scientist and publicist Wolf Grabendorff is a renowned expert on Latin America. Deutsche Welle talked to him about Peru's presidential elections on Sunday, which left Ollanta Humala, an ex-army officer, leading with 31 percent. Humala now faces lawmaker Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who won 23 percent. The run-offs are scheduled for June 5.
DW: How do you view the election results in Peru? Are you also as critical as [Literature Nobel Prize winner] Mario Vargas Llosa, who once described the choice between Humala and Fujimori as one "between AIDS and terminal cancer?"
Wolf Grabendorff: (laughs) Well, you have to know that Llosa has a particular relationship to these political developments. I can't imagine that it can be interpreted so extremely, especially since Humala is not as radical as he was five years ago. Humala has undergone what many would call a "very mature development." He led a very clever campaign by assuring everyone who did and didn't want to hear it that he had no intentions of nationalization and that he doesn't intend to take over the model of [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez. That's due to the fact that he was very close to Chavez five years ago, the first time he ran for president.
But now he's orienting himself more toward [Brazil's former president] Lula da Silva and his policies. He even says so himself. And those were very successful politics in Latin America. At the moment, the chances are pretty good for him to win the presidential elections.
You compared Humala's economic policies to Lula da Silva's. What sort of economic model does Keiko Fujimori represent?
Keiko Fujimori represents an economic model that would be significantly more authoritarian and in some respects right-wing populist. She's more likely to push through economic plans similar to her father's: that the state calls the shots and though it gives the economy free reign, it directly intervenes in those areas which interest it.
At the moment, she is some eight percentage points behind Humala. Does she have a chance of catching up?
It's difficult to say. Peru has always been a country full of surprises at election time and where outsiders - those who do not belong to the political establishment - had the best chances. You can't rule out that she may catch up. But I think it's relatively unlikely because she, just like Humala, has a way of antagonizing large parts of the electorate. She reminds too many people of her father - and not in a positive sense.
For that reason, the fact that she's a woman and in Latin America growing numbers of women are being elected, will not be a decisive factor. Humala is the one who basically presented the better program. She has to date said very little about her program.
Fujimori and Humala have a lot of convincing to do to get more votes
What does the Peru that President Alan Garcia is bequeathing to his successor look like? What are the greatest challenges going to be for the new president?
The country economically is in an excellent position. One of the main points of debate, also in the campaign, is that very little of this excellent growth of seven to eight percent per year is trickling down to a majority of the population. So it's not about improving the economy, but rather ensuring a better distribution. The poverty levels continue to be remarkably high in Peru and there is notably a great rejection of the political class. There's no other country in Latin America where the politicians, the political class and parties are viewed so poorly as in Peru. It's a country ready for reforms - mainly in social areas, in education and health.
You said you think Humala will win the run-offs. Would he be the suitable candidate to weather these challenges? It is after all a run-off election, so the country is divided.
That is something that will continue. The polarization existed before the elections, was intensified by the election campaign and will continue to exist in Peru after the elections. There's no doubt about that. The middle class, in particular, which did very well and moved up under presidents Alejandro Toledo and now Garcia has great concerns over Humala. The polarization is something which the new president will not be able to do away with easily, even though he repeatedly displayed his willingness to enter into dialogue during the campaign and spoke of his desire to put together a cabinet of national unity, so not only with people out of his own stable.
What will the result mean for Peru's foreign policy?
Humala is a very nationalistic candidate. That is also due to his military background and his ties to the military. He has expressed himself very critically towards Chile. His criticism towards the United States is also known, whereby his nationalism certainly plays a role here. It won't be the case though that he'll immediately throw himself into the arms of ALBA [a grouping of leftist Latin American countries], the organization headed by Chavez and the Cubans. But he certainly won't continue the pro-Chilean and also pro-Colombian policies which Alan Garcia pursued in order to address the more conservative neighboring countries.
Interview: Valeria Risi / sac
Editor: Rob Mudge