Peruvians go to the polls this Sunday (6) to make a difficult choice. On the one hand, the far-right candidate, Keiko Fujimori; on the other, the far left candidate, Pedro Castillo.
Keiko is the daughter of Alberto Fujimori, a dictator responsible for the most serious human rights violations of the 1990s. Castillo, an anti-“gender ideology” activist who promises to break with the institutional order of the country.
This second round is the bearer of important lessons for the politics of the region, and especially for us Brazilians.
The first lesson is the victory of militant conservatism. In Peru, the social base has changed and, although Catholics are in the majority, it is evangelicals who have political influence, especially neo-Pentecostals. Keiko and Castillo share the struggle against what they call “gender ideology” and see conservative values as the flagship of their political discourses. Although considered to be on the far left, Castillo is also “terribly” ultra-conservative. Progressive agendas linked to respect for human rights freedoms are out of reach in Peru.
The second lesson is that the judicialization of politics has destabilized our political systems. As in Brazil, the Peruvian political class has been decimated by justice: two presidents have fallen in five years, a former president committed suicide, and this opened the door not to the renewal of the political class, but to the emergence of extremists and the infiltration of corrupt.
As much as in Brazil, Operation Lava Jato in Peru fostered anti-political sentiment that clearly flirted with anti-democratic sentiment. Keiko Fujimori’s political group is notoriously corrupt. In the case of Pedro Castillo, serious allegations of corruption weigh against the main leader of his party and parliamentarians elected by his movement. The judicialization of politics has not eliminated the corrupt, but it has valued those who do not appreciate democracy.
The third lesson is that, in polarized societies, the fragmentation of candidates in the first round favors those who vocalize the different poles the best. Pedro Castillo, a teacher from the interior of the country, totally unknown, obtained just over 19% of the vote. Fujimori took 13%. That is, two-thirds of the electorate voted for the other eight available candidates who spanned the entire democratic political spectrum, from left to right through the center.
The fourth lesson is that polarization cannot be confused with extremism. The fact that there are two poles does not mean that they are automatically two extremes. At the start of the campaign, the Peruvian media made this mistake by repeatedly calling the main center-left candidate “Chavista”. He was surprisingly overtaken by Pedro Castillo – he, yes, a true extremist.
The same mistake was made here in 2018 and it persists in the articles of the most qualified opinion leaders in our country. If, on the one hand, Keiko’s radicalism is comparable to that of Jair Bolsonaro (the Peruvian is certainly more moderate than the Brazilian), Castillo is not of the same nature as Fernando Haddad or any other possible candidate from the left. Brazilian.
The Peruvian supports an openly anti-capitalist discourse, proposes a radically equal distribution of wealth and has promised to close the country’s Constitutional Court. Castillo passes the PT off as a moderate conservative party.
In Peru, polarization is represented by two anti-democratic extremes. This was not our case in 2018. Not all rights are fascist, and not all left are authoritarian. It cannot be claimed that the Democratic candidates are not without running the risk that the electorate no longer knows how to distinguish between democracy and authoritarianism.