Tensions are mounting in the weeks leading up to this year’s Peruvian presidential elections as two candidates have been removed from the ballot and protesters are calling for the disqualification of a third.
Thousands of Peruvian protesters have taken to the streets in Lima in the last week to call for the disqualification of presidential front runner, Keiko Fujimori, known commonly as Keiko, from the 10th April vote.
According to estimates, between 2,000 and 3,000 people gathered last Friday in front of the headquarters of the National Elections Council (JNE) in San Martin’s Square, with further protests in the subsequent days.
The protesters claim that Keiko had violated electoral legislation against vote-buying after photographs and video footage surfaced reportedly showing the presidential candidate and her running mate handing out gifts at a rally.
The protests, surrounded by heavy police details, called attention to the dark legacy of Keiko’s father, Alberto Fujimori, the Peruvian president-turned-dictator from 1990 to 2000 currently serving a 25-year sentence for corruption and human rights abuses committed during his regime. Protesters used body paint to represent the more than 200,000 forced sterilisations of poor and indigenous women between 1995 and 2000.
“People are protesting to say enough of these irregularities and of the Fujimori ambition of returning to power,” said Jorge Rodriguez, leader of a group called ‘Fujimori Nunca Más’.
In the Andean city of Cusco, local media reported that demonstrators interrupted a Keiko rally with signs reading “Keiko, Cusco rejects you,” throwing tomatoes, and eggs – among other objects – and forcing the suspension of the event.
Keiko herself denies the claims and calls them “absurd.”
While the claims against Keiko are currently being investigated, on 4th March, the Special Electoral Jury (JEE), an investigative subcommittee of the JNE, declared two of Keiko’s opponents ineligible to run in the presidential elections.
The decisions stated that Julio Guzmán, of Todos Por el Perú (TPP) – polling in second place – had incorrectly completed paperwork in the registration process, and that César Acuña, of the Alianza Por el Progreso (APP) – polling in fourth place – had illegally purchased support.
After failures in two consecutive appeals, both candidates were officially eliminated from the elections on 13th March, with the JNE declaring that Guzmán had “seriously and irreparably violated his own rules in shaping the presidential formula,” and that Acuña had “participated in prohibited conduct by giving money in a proselytizing act.”
Daniel Mora, a spokesperson for Guzmán insisted on Twitter that they would challenge the decision, even before an international court, claiming that his constitutional right to run for office had been violated.
The exclusions have been condemned both domestically and internationally by current president Ollanta Humala – who criticised the transparency of the JNE – and by Renate Weber, head of the Electoral Observation Mission of the EU in Peru, who called the exclusion “problematic” only a few weeks before the elections. This will be the third time the EU observes an election in Peru.
While Fujimori’s legacy is controversial – some credit the former dictator with ending longstanding conflicts between the government and rebel groups in Peru, despite known human rights abuses – analysts agree that the exclusion of both Guzmán and Acuña favours Keiko’s candidacy.
With most polls predicting an average of just over 30% for Keiko, electoral simulators project that her main rival will be Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, known as PPK, leader of the Peruanos Por el Kambio (PPK) party.
According to Peru’s electoral system, if no candidate garners the 50% of votes required for a first-round victory in next months ballot, a second round run-off will be held on 5th June.