Top challenge for Peru’s new President: the Fujimoris

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LIMA: Keiko Fujimori may have lost Peru’s presidential election, but her party’s majority in Congress and her brother’s political ambitions guarantee years of governing drama for winner Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

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Kuczynski defeated Fujimori by such a razor-thin margin in the June 5 runoff that she conceded defeat only five days after the vote.

And when she did, Fujimori—the daughter of an ex-President jailed for corruption and rights abuses—was flanked by most of the 73 legislators of her party elected to Peru’s single-chamber Congress.

Only 18 members of Kuczynski’s party were elected to the 130-seat body.

Kuczynski, 77, and Keiko Fujimori, 41, are both center-right politicians. Both are also still dealing with the legacy of Keiko’s father, Alberto Fujimori, Peru’s controversial authoritarian President in power from 1990 to 2000.

Kuczynski was able to tap into that anti-Fujimori feeling and received key support from Veronika Mendoza, 35, a leftist lawmaker who came in third in the first round of voting—even after he called her a “bitch” in early campaigning.

The political wild card in the coming years is Keiko Fujimori’s younger brother Kenji Fujimori, 36, the ex-President’s favorite child.

Kenji Fujimori was elected to Congress with half a million votes, more than any other lawmaker. He said before the runoff that, if Keiko lost, he would seek the presidency in 2021—then didn’t bother to vote at all.

‘In Keiko’s hands’

Kuczynski, best known by his initials PPK, “governs from the executive and Keiko governs from Congress. There is not one government, there are two governments,” said former lawmaker and Alberto Fujimori spokesman Carlos Raffo.

“For the country to move ahead,” Kuczynski’s “inescapable responsibility” is to reach agreements with the opposition, he said. “In practice, Kuczynski’s government will be in the hands of Keiko.”

Congressman Carlos Bruce, from the President-elect’s Peruvians for Change party, said the country needs “a cohabitation agreement. If we don’t, the pendulum will swing towards the left” in the 2021 election.

However, Keiko Fujimori’s strength in Congress may not be as solid as it seems.

“It will not be the cohesive bloc that it was” in the past five years under outgoing President Ollanta Humala, said political analyst Carlos Basombrio.

This is the second time Keiko Fujimori lost a presidential election—she was defeated by Humala in 2011—and her party leadership may be challenged.

The Kenji factor

There are two factions among the “Fujimoristas”: a group seeking to create a moderate party that engages in deal making, led by Keiko, and a populist, hard-lined wing closer to the policies of Alberto Fujimori led by Kenji.

Kenji Fujimori never acknowledged his father’s guilt, and would likely release him if elected president.

His 2021 ambitions are clear evidence “of an internal crisis” among the Fujimori supporters, said newly-elected leftist lawmaker Marisa Glave.

He was ten years old when his father was elected president, and spent his formative years in the presidential palace, often pulling pranks and hiding from his bodyguards.

His father often took the boy on the trail while campaigning, and Kenji remains close to several of his father’s advisers.

Like his father, the younger Fujimori studied agricultural engineering, but then went on to head a private security firm.

What he lacks is “political maturity,” said Luis Benavente, with Vox Populi consultants.
During his first term in Congress “he did not introduce any important legislation, and wasn’t even a spokesperson for his group,” Benavente said.

Over the next five years, he must prove that he is qualified to aspire to the presidency, Benavente added.

Alberto Fujimori, a Peruvian of Japanese parents, was credited with crushing the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru leftist insurgencies during his presidency.

However, he was also mired in vote fraud and corruption allegations, and in his final days fled to Japan and resigned via fax.

Seeking a political comeback, Fujimori later moved to Chile—but authorities there extradited him to Peru, where he was put on trial for rights abuses and corruption and sentenced in 2009 to 25 years prison.

His favorite child may have a good chance at Peru’s highest office. Just days after Keiko Fujimori’s defeat, “Kenji 2021” graffiti appeared on walls in working class Lima neighborhoods.

AFP

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