Country Report Peru May 2000 Updater

Political outlook: Election watch

The second round will be close, and recent opinion polls suggest that the two candidates are neck and neck, with some 10% of voters undecided. However, the polls tend to underestimate Mr Fujimori's levels of support. His image has deteriorated sharply as a result of the dirty election campaign, allegations of fraud, forging of signatures for the congressional list, abuse of media presence and harassment of opposition candidates. But although the campaign has weakened Mr Fujimori, it has also made people reluctant to admit publicly that they would vote for him. This, combined with the president's strong support in remote areas that pollsters cannot reach, is estimated to represent a hidden pro-Fujimori vote equivalent to about 2.5 percentage points. Bearing this in mind, Mr Fujimori probably holds a slight advantage at present.

The opposition and international observers continue to condemn the pro- government bias of the Peruvian media, particularly public-access television. Moreover, Mr Fujimori is reluctant to conduct a televised debate with Mr Toledo, which may swing undecided voters towards Mr Toledo. The second-round vote therefore appears unlikely to be "free and fair", as requested by international observers. Although Mr Toledo is succeeding in keeping the issue of democratic legitimacy at the centre of the election, the public is likely to vote on the issues of unemployment and poverty. Despite Mr Fujimori's failure to generate jobs after a decade in power, he is perceived by many as a safer bet than Mr Toledo.

Whoever wins the run-off will face problems of governability, since neither will command a congressional majority. Mr Fujimori's Peru 2000 coalition obtained 42.2% of valid votes at the congressional election, which will cut its representation from 67 seats (out of 120) to 52. Mr Toledo's Peru Posible will be the second largest group in Congress, having obtained 23.3% of the vote, which will give it 29 representatives. Although Congress will be more split than in recent years, there is little danger of a repetition of the systematic congressional obstructionism that led to a constitutional crisis in 1992, given the president's powers of patronage and a narrowing of policy differences across the political spectrum. However, the pace of reform is likely to be slowed as a result of the next president's diminished congressional support.

© 2000 The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. All rights reserved
Whilst every effort has been taken to verify the accuracy of this information, The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. cannot accept any responsibility or liability for reliance by any person on this information