On horseback Pedro Castillo, a schoolteacher, union leader and tram driver, arrived in Lima on Thursday April 8 to end the most unpredictable campaign since the rise of another teacher who, riding a tractor, won the Presidency of Peru in 1990: Alberto Fujimori.
Fortune, as Machiavelli says, put Castillo in the second round with Keiko Fujimori, no less than the daughter of the anonymous former engineer who won against all odds 31 years ago.
The monumental Peruvian political fragmentation, translated into an electoral grid of 18 political groups, with a large majority that does not deserve to be considered a party, provided that respectively 19% and 13% of the valid votes are the second round.
In this sense, the Peruvian first round has the characteristics of a primary election, with a wide electoral offer that is capitalized by those who manage to retain minorities in a proposal close to the extreme.
You don’t win a middle primary, just like you don’t win a first round in Peru today that way.
Mistakenly, intellectuals in Lima have tried to put the hat of the outsider on Castillo, given his soaring rise in opinion polls, having been out of favor for most of the campaign. However, he is not new to these areas.
As a union leader, Castillo has extensive experience in the political arena.
In 2017, he gained national notoriety as one of the leaders of the Peruvian teachers’ union in the face of reform attempts presented by the Ministry of Education.
Surrounded by grassroots organizations, he was questioned to have characters around him linked to what remained of terrorist organizations, such as the Shining Path.
The candidacy succeeded in shaking confidence in Minister Marilú Martens and the entire Congress cabinet.
Castillo belongs to the Free Peru, a group formed in the central Andes whose leader is the doctor Vladimir Cerrón, former governor of the region of Junín sentenced to four years in prison for corruption.
The Castillo and Cerrón platform adheres to Marxism-Leninism and occupies a political and economic position on the far left, while supporting ultra-conservative positions on the social level.
Castillo caught the attention of the electorate in the central and southern Andes, traditionally leftist and critical of centralizing policies dictated from Lima.
During the 120 days of the campaign, this electorate seemed to converge on left or populist options, like Verónika Mendoza or Yonhy Lescano.
However, in view of the exhaustion of the two proposals and the errors of the electoral exercise, Castillo had the opportunity to impose himself as a novelty, with a clearly controversial and inflexible speech.
In contrast, Keiko Fujimori will try to win the presidency by reaching the second round for the third time in a row.
The support collected by her platform has dropped significantly since 2016, when she comfortably won the first round, with around 40% preferences.
Keiko and her party, Fuerza Popular, appeared to strengthen their political options for this election due to the time the candidate has spent in pre-trial detention for allegations of money laundering by Brazilian multinational Odebrecht.
Likewise, the majority congressional group of Fuerza Popular waged fierce opposition to the government of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and was frowned upon by public opinion, which perceived an attempt to defend fraudulent interests through the legislature. To this must be added the rejection of a large segment of the population in relation to their father.
However, as the official political discussion was reduced to interactions in mass media and social media, Keiko remained steadfast in conveying a concrete message: an iron fist.
Likewise, it would have contributed in its favor to no longer being in the center of the spotlight and, consequently, of the attacks. Meanwhile, right-wing options, one represented by economist Hernando de Soto and the other by conservative populist Rafael López Aliaga, have become at the center of coups and controversy.
Thus, the iron fist, added to the memory of the father, perceived by public opinion as the architect of the economic reconstruction of the early 1990s, would have contributed to its recovery, especially in the interior areas, moderately. impervious to official political discussion and to Lima.
The story is far from over. Seventy percent of voters did not vote in favor of these two policy options. Both suffer from wide resistance and are unpredictable.
Keiko must convince voters that he will not use the government as a weapon of political revenge or that his five-year term will no longer become an episode of institutional theft and disappearance.
Castillo must convince the electorate that he has a firm democratic vocation and that he is ready to resort to political forces remote from his proposal. In addition, it must distance itself from partners with a history of corruption and also, categorically, from the possible influence of groups who have claimed responsibility for violent acts.
Both candidates have extensive political and social mobilization experience, so to underestimate their opponents would be a serious mistake.
In this context, political fragmentation, although cursed, can also be an opportunity: whoever wants to win has every interest in moderating. Whoever manages to comb through the center will win.
As in the myth of Sisyphus, condemned forever to push a rock to the top of a mountain, Peruvians again embark on a bitter election, without inspiration or even illusion.
The stone we are pushing is the very mistake of thinking that in five years, by inertia, things will be different. The tragedy is that the weather in Peru is circular.