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Latin America

Peru presidential elections: "Back to Fujimori?"

Who will be the country's next president? Pedro Pablo Kuczynski or Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the former dictator Alberto Fujimori? Adriana León from the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS) in Lima offers her views.

In Peru, everything's revolving around the runoff presidential elections scheduled for June 5. The results will determine whether the conservative Pedro Pablo Kuczynski or his equally conservative opponent Keiko Fujimori will be at the helm. Keiko Fujimori is the daughter of the former dictator Alberto Fujimori, who ruled the country from 1990 - 2000 and is currently serving a 25-year prison term for human rights abuses.

His The Fujimori name is once more dividing the country - and its media sector. Media reports are often biased and lack context. Elena Ern, DW Akademie's country coordinator for Bolivia, spoke with Adriana León, head of the press and freedom of information department at the Institute for Press and Society in Lima.

Keiko Fujimori first ran in presidential elections in 2011, but lost to the left-wing nationalist, Ollanta Humala. At the time, writer Vargas Llosa described the elections as a choice between "cancer and AIDS". What is the choice for Peruvians now?
Adriana León: Keiko's opponent this time is Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, commonly referred to as "PPK". Both contestants, however, are conservatives and right-wing populists with a neoliberal agenda. There's a fear that they'll cater to the interests of a few, further dividing the country between the poor and disadvantaged, who live primarily in rural areas, and members of the small economic elite, who rule the country from Lima and own the major media companies.

For many Peruvians, the name Fujimori is synonymous with a somber era during which democracy and human rights were trampled. Keiko, however, almost won an absolute majority in the first round of voting in April. Why is that?
The Fujimori phenomenon, or "Fujimorismo" is an interesting one. There are families that, for generations, have voted for Alberto Fujimori saying that he brought them electricity, built roads and fought terrorism. For the past ten years, his daughter has basically been campaigning on a similar ticket. She canvasses votes in rural areas that other politicians avoid. Her paternalistic tone and simple, formulaic slogans like "fight crime with a heavy hand" are popular in these regions. However her opponents say that Keiko Fujimori has an authoritarian style that becomes apparent when, for example, she excludes critical media from press receptions.

There's a heavy media concentration in Peru. To what extent is this reflected in the current campaign?
The mass media tend to favor Pablo Kuczynski, but they mainly leave Keiko Fujimori alone. One exception is the newspaper La Republika, which has come out against Fujimori and is supporting the leftist candidate, Veronika Mendoza. All the media however, score poorly where independence, background reporting and contextualizing facts and events are concerned. Their focus is on the candidates' personalities rather than on their election platforms or on political debates. Still, the media's influence is more subtle than it was in 2011, when they openly came out against presidential candidate Ollanta Humala. He went on to win, but the election coverage was characterized by such dirty, biased reporting that it earned Peru sharp criticism from the European Union.

The left-wing candidate Veronika Mendoza has come under considerable criticism from the media, especially from the media group, El Comercio.

Yes, that's true. They've probably come out against her because one of her stated goals is to limit the privileges enjoyed by large media companies, even if it means changing the constitution. Mendoza has been misquoted and depicted as a terrorist. This can be very damaging in Peru because nothing arouses more fear here than terrorism, which prevailed for such a long time.

The run-off election is on June 5. Who is likely to win - Fujimori or Kuczynski?

Fujimori has a better chance. In fact, she would have won the April election with just a few more percentage points. On the other hand, opposition to Fujimori is mounting because many voters feel that Kuczynski is the lesser evil. Human rights organizations are also calling on people not to vote for Fujimori, because of the grave human rights abuses and corruption that occurred during her father's time in office.

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