It could hardly have been closer. As the final votes were counted in the run-off ballot for Peru’s presidency, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a liberal economist, seemed to have defeated Keiko Fujimori by just 39,000 out of almost 18m votes, a margin of 0.2%. After months in which Ms Fujimori had led opinion polls, this was a surprising reversal. It shows how deeply divided Peru is about the legacy of Ms Fujimori’s father, Alberto, who ruled it as an autocrat from 1990 to 2000; he is serving long prison terms for corruption and complicity in human-rights abuses. With such a narrow mandate, Mr Kuczynski’s first task when he takes office on July 28th will be to show that he can govern a country facing an economic slowdown and characterised by frequent social conflicts. It helps that he has few real policy differences with Ms Fujimori.
Fortune smiled on Mr Kuczynski throughout the race, with the force of the Andean sun. He was an unlikely victor. At 77, he is among the oldest presidential-election winners in Latin American history. He has alternated periods as an official in Peru—manager of the Central Bank in the 1960s, mining minister in the 1980s and economy and prime minister in the early 2000s—with long stints abroad: he studied at Oxford and Princeton, and worked at the World Bank and as a businessman and banker in the United States. His hired campaign guru resigned in despair at the candidate’s lack of political instincts.
In February Mr Kuczynski’s support in the opinion polls was 9% and falling. His chance came when the electoral authority disqualified two other candidates on technicalities. In the first ballot in April, he won just 21% of the vote, well behind Ms Fujimori’s 40%. A week before the run-off vote on June 5th Ms Fujimori led by five points.
In the end strong anti-Fujimori sentiment brought Mr Kuczynski his razor-thin victory. Ms Fujimori is an effective grass-roots campaigner. She built on her father’s support among the poor, who remember his crushing of hyperinflation and terrorism, and his opening of schools and health clinics. But the other half of Peru abhors Fujimorismo, seeing it as the legacy of a corrupt dictatorship.
Full Article: The fortunate president | The Economist.