On April 11, neighboring countries Peru and Ecuador, held their first and second round of voting in their general elections respectively. The results formed a stark contrast, with the former voting for a left-leaning candidate and the latter, a right-leaning one.
Peru had the first round of voting in their general elections that will determine the new President, Vice President and all 130 congress members. The runoff vote, which will take place in June, will be between Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori.
In the first round, 51 year-old schoolteacher and union leader Pedro Castillo came out on top with 18.1% of the votes. Following him was Keiko Fujimori, who is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, with 14.5% of the votes. With no candidate winning 20% of the country’s support, the majority of voters seem disappointed in their options.
Castillo, a radical left-wing candidate, has advocated for mass nationalization, regulation of media, and a budget increase for education and healthcare. On the other hand, Fujimori, a conservative candidate, has promised to end the lockdown and focus on the country’s crime rate. However, neither candidate has shown support for same-sex marriage or abortion rights.
For Peru’s one-chamber congress, neither candidate’s parties were close to winning the majority. Free Peru was leading with 13.8% of the votes, followed by Fujimori’s Popular Force having 10.3% of the votes.
Anyone who is eligible to vote is required to do so by law. This vote has been called “one of the lowest points in the country’s history” by some, with as many as 15% of the voters leaving blank ballots. The second round of voting will be highly polarized given the two candidates and could steer the country in two radically opposite directions.
Peru has the highest number of Covid-related deaths in Latin America. The day before the election, it registered 384 deaths in 24 hours, the highest amount since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, the country’s GDP shrank 12% in this past year, the worst recession the country has been in the last three decades. Whichever candidate wins the presidency will have to manage an unprecedented economic and health crisis that will profoundly change and shape the country in the upcoming years.
Peru was the not the only country in Latin America to hold elections this year. Ecuador held their second round of elections on the same day. The country elected Guillermo Lasso, a former banker and a current member of the ultraconservative Caltholic institution Opus Dei, as their new president. He ran on a free-market platform, promising to cut taxes and increase government investment and increased his voter reach by promising to keep his conservative religious views out of his policy-making.
Lasso won the election by almost five points against Andres Arauz, a socialist and protégé of former President Rafael Correa. However, his party only won a small number of seats in congress, with Arauz’s left-wing party coalition winning 70% of the seats and being the biggest opposition.
Nevertheless, the country’s faith in its political institutions was challenged in these elections, with as many as 17% of votes casting blank ballots, and another 20% abstaining from voting, despite the law that makes it compulsory to vote.
Ecuador is struggling with high unemployment rates and a dramatic increase in violence against women. The pandemic also halted 70% of businesses last year. Lasso has a hard uphill battle ahead of him to not only win the country’s support, but also the opposition’s to pass any legislation in a gridlocked congress.
Additionally, in both countries, there was a missing central candidate that could gain support from both sides of the political spectrum. Both are struggling economically as a result of the pandemic, thus requiring national consensus and political unity to overcome the situation. The vastly different election results in both countries demonstrate not only the upcoming governance challenges for the new presidents, but also the national discontent with each country’s political institutions.
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