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PERU: What matters ahead of April presidential vote

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There are just under 11 weeks to go before the 11 April first round of the presidential election. Below we examine the state of the race alongside key signposts and scenarios.

Voting intentions remain dispersed, with a high number of undecided voters. No candidate is currently polling above 20%.

There are four presidential candidates in the front rank. These are George Forsyth (National Victory – VN), Keiko Fujimori (Fuerza Popular – FP), Julio Guzman (Purple Party – PM), and Veronika Mendoza (Together for Peru – JPP). Forsyth continues to lead the polls and appears to have recovered from a poll dip that he suffered in November. Fujimori, Guzman, and Mendoza are all polling under 10%.

Trailing behind these four is a second group of candidates – hovering at or under 5% in the polls – which includes Daniel Urresti (Podemos Peru – PP), Yonhy Lescano (Popular Action – AP), and Hernando de Soto (Avanza Pais).

A striking feature shared by the top four candidates is their high rejection ratings: according to the most recent Ipsos poll, 71% say they would definitely not vote for Fujimori, 52% would not vote for Guzman, 48% reject Mendoza, and 42% would not vote for Forsyth. Fujimori’s past obstructionism, the corruption allegations against her, and her father Alberto Fujimori’s controversial legacy, all explain her anti-vote. Guzman could be paying the cost of incumbency since his former PM colleague Francisco Sagasti is caretaker president (even if Sagasti has left the PM and Guzman is not in government). Mendoza’s leftism counts against her, while Forsyth’s rejection rating is likely to reflect recent policy flip-flopping, combined with signs that he is out of his depth.

Fujimori’s rejection rating makes it difficult for her to progress to the second round. Her legal difficulties are an added obstacle; for example, she must ask for permission from a judge if she wishes to leave Lima. Guzman’s chances could continue to correlate with perceptions of Sagasti’s caretaker administration, particularly his handling of the pandemic. It does not bode well for Guzman that a second coronavirus wave is expected to be reaching a sustained peak over February and March as campaigning intensifies – while the vaccination roll-out has yet to start.

There are three other aspects to consider in the weeks ahead:

More of the electorate (20%) believe Forsyth will eventually win than actually support him (17%). This dynamic could have an important impact on undecided voters, many of whom will make up their minds in the final days of the campaign and tend to vote for a candidate they perceive as a winner.

There is enormous value in being seen as the candidate who can best stand up to (and eventually defeat) negative or nefarious forces: the mantle of the anti-populist, the anti-leftist, or the anti-Fujimori candidate. As evinced by Fujimori’s rejection ratings, any candidate who faces her in a second round would be the clear favorite. Guzman best fits this anti-role, though he would face his own challenge because he risks being seen as the establishment candidate. A Guzman versus Forsyth run-off would therefore pit anti-populism versus anti-establishment sentiment and could be the most highly contested of the eventual second-round scenarios.

Finally, 11 weeks provides plenty of time for scandals, drop-outs, and alliances with the potential to alter the state of the race.

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PERU: What matters ahead of April presidential vote

There are just under 11 weeks to go before the 11 April first round of the presidential election. Below we examine the state of