Social Democrat Alan Garcia to face nationalistic Humala in Peruvian runoff

The country is split in thirds. The new president will face a divided Congress.

Nationalistic leader Ollanta Humala has little to celebrate after winning the first round in the Peruvian presidential race earlier this month. Hard-to-beat Social Democrat candidate Alan Garcia appears to be his rival in the runoff scheduled for May and as his party garnered 30 percent of the vote, an eventual pact between Garcia and center-right forces will relegate his political force to a minority in the next Congress.

With over 95% of April 9 election returns counted, Mr. Garcia has surpassed conservative leader Lourdes Flores for almost 100,000 votes and will surely be the rival of Humala. Although observers believe that the runoff will be a close battle between the two most voted candidates, the legislative result is already clear and could lead to different views.

Social democrat Alan Garcia’s APRA party, a long established political organization particularly strong in rural and poor urban areas, managed to obtain 35 seats and Conservative Lourdes Flores National Unity Alliance 19 seats. Alliance for the Future which responds to former president Alberto Fujimori, currently retained in Chile pending an extradition process began by the Peruvian government, will have 15 members in Congress and 5 members a small party representing another former president Valentin Paniauga.

If Alan Garcia manages to get the support of the conservative forces in the second run, Humala will hardly defeat him and his 43 seats will be useless to challenge an eventual “democratic” coalition. On the contrary, if Garcia fails to reach an agreement with the remaining forces, Humala’s first minority in the Congress could undermine Garcia’s second presidency.

Alan Garcia and Lourdes Flores does not look reluctant to dialogue in an attempt to block Humala’s nationalistic ambitions. However, the conservative forces of Peru dislike Social democrat Alan Garcia as much as nationalistic Ollanta Humala. An eventual three-party deal has been excluded.

Observers believe that Alan Garcia stands the better chances to win in a runoff against Humala. The radical ideas of the former Army colonel suspected of crimes against humanity, horrify the well-minded middle and upper classes of Lima and the other main cities of the country. But the poor rural masses of the provinces have fallen fascinated by the radical rhetoric of Humala.

Alan Garcia, in turn, is a well-educated amazingly charismatic political leader who ruled Peru in the eighties. The “crazy horse”, as he is known in Peru was elected president in 1985 when he was just 36 years old and since then he has been a key player in the political life of his country despite the economical collapse that made him to resign in 1990.

Before the rise of Humala, Alan Garcia was the enemy-number-one of the Peruvian businessmen, but since the Army official jumped to the center of the political scene the former president is seen as a moderate center-left leader. This is a key advantage for Garcia: he can talk to the remaining 30 percent of the electorate that opted for conservative options.

Hernan Etchaleco

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov