The 12.7 million Peruvian voters who voted for mayors and regional government officials on October 3, 2010, continue to wait for official results from the Oficina Nacional de Procesos Electorales (ONPE) on who will be Lima’s next mayor. According to the latest tally, released today, with 95.8 percent of votes counted, Susana Villarán of the Fuerza Social party has received 38.4 percent of the votes (1,685,624 votes) and her opponent, Lourdes Flores has 37.6 percent (1,650,641). That is a difference of just 34,983 votes (0.797 percent).
The delay in official results is of great concern not only to the candidates, but to the entire city government. Given current projections, the winner of the mayoral race would likely enter office only five days before the delivery of 2011 municipal budgets.
The three-week delay has also led to speculation of voter fraud. In response, Fuerza Social is leading a protest today in front of the ONPE headquarters in Lima. The party is also calling on Lourdes Flores to join calls for a transparent and fair counting process. Either way, this election will mark the first time a female candidate will become Lima’s mayor.
Susana Villarán appears to have squeaked into Lima’s mayorship with the narrowest of margins, amid fearmongering that the human rights activist could be a “trojan horse” for radical leftists.
Villarán, a moderate, will be Lima’s first leftist mayor since 1983, and the first elected female mayor in five centuries.
With 58.4 percent of the votes counted, Villarán had 38.95 percent, compared with Lourdes Flores, a lawyer and two-time presidential candidate, who secured 36.85 percent. Fernando Tuesta, a respected pollster at Lima’s Catholic University, told Peruvian daily La Republica the margin giving Villarán a victory, although small, was almost certain to stick.
With Peru’s economy bouncing back strongly from last year’s global recession, Lima is benefiting from a boom in construction, strong inflows of foreign direct investment and the rapid growth of a new middle class.
For the last two election cycles in which Lourdes Flores has run for president, polls have always shown her with strong leads in the weeks before elections, but come election night, she has lost. This time she is running for mayor of Lima on the Partido Popular Cristiano political party ticket and it looks like the trend will continue. Recent revelations of her close ties to Cesar Castano, the owner of Peruvian Airlines, who is currently under suspicion of narco-trafficking, have caused her numbers to slide in the polls with the October elections fast approaching.
While this could signal yet another political disappointment for Lourdes, it also raises questions about the strength of her political party affiliation and Peru’s political party system overall. Perhaps, this is because the formal institutionalization of political parties under the Peruvian legal system did not happen until 2003. But there is also simply a culture of informality with political parties here. Parties are often created every election cycle to fill a vacuum of political institutions and ideas, but they are not sustainable. They are created out of necessity during elections years to organize campaigns rather than built over the long-term, based on political ideas and platforms.
Often, candidates in high profile races like Lima mayor or president form party alliances and then find candidates in the provinces and local areas to carry the name of the party bloc. After the election, the political party disappears only to be resurrected using the same name or another name in the next election cycle. Also common: political parties field candidates only at the municipal level and do not have national candidates or they are only national and struggle to find municipal candidates.
It’s election season in Lima. In less than three months, Limeños will go to the polls to choose the successor for outgoing Mayor Luis Castañeda Lossio who will be running in the April 2011 presidential contest. Although there are two frontrunners, 12 candidates have formally registered to run in the October 3 mayoral contest.
Here is a brief summary of each candidate:
You know it is election season in Peru when the number of public works projects (obras) increases so much that traffic comes to a virtual standstill. That’s how Lima is today ahead of the municipal and regional elections that will be held in October 2010. Much is at stake as the outcomes are a telltale sign for what may happen in next year’s presidential election
The massive display of obras during an election year is not uncommon. In fact, they are strategic. Visible projects—like the construction of an electric train and bus system in Lima—are displays of what the government has done for its people, and are often used as a form of propaganda by candidates running in incumbent seats. Closely following the Latin American tradition of populismo, incumbent candidates appeal to the masses through these obras. Yet, the use of public works projects as propaganda can pose risks too. Publicly displayed accomplishments might also expose the corruption associated with their construction.
Lima has a history of failed public works projects. During President Alan García’s first term (1985—1990) he invested in a national project to construct a Tren Electrico—a train system that would run through the city. However, the project was abandoned and some parts of the construction turned into artwork. At the same time President García was accused of rampant corruption and mismanagement of the project. Then after winning the presidency again in 2006, he promised to complete the project by the end of his term in 2011.