Atoning for the Sins of Her Father: Peruvian Presidential Candidate Keiko Fujimori’s Battle To Become President
By Amaya Phillips
After eight years of imprisonment, Alberto Fujimori, former President of Peru, continues to influence Peruvian politics from the confines of his carcel. In 2009, President Fujimori was sentenced to twenty-five years of incarceration after being convicted for murder, bodily harm, kidnapping, and embezzlement. Although Fujimori’s career ended abruptly, his political legacy, denoted as Fujimorismo, is credited with the revitalization of the national economy and the stabilization of Peruvian society.
The repercussions of Fujimori’s presidency significantly affected the political platforms in the 2016 presidential race, as his daughter Keiko Fujimori, candidate of the Popular Force Party, contended against Peruvians for Change (PPK) candidate, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. The 2016 election was one of the most controversial races in the history of Peruvian politics, as it presented two unconventional nominees who sparsely resembled the average Peruvian voter. Popular Force candidate, Keiko Fujimori, of Japanese descent, holds an MBA from Columbia University. Pedro Pablo Kuczyknsi, born in Lima to European immigrants, holds a master’s degree from Princeton University and was accused of fleeing Peru when domestic turmoil arose in the late 1980’s.
As the ideological differences between the candidates remained minimal, the 2016 election was recognized as the ultimate opportunity to test the nation’s collective memory, morality, and dignity. For many Peruvians, a vote for Keiko Fujimori symbolized vindication of former President Fujimori’s authoritarian regime. Throughout the election cycle, Ms. Fujimori struggled to recognize the merit of her father’s strong-handed economic legacy while also distinguishing herself from his sins.
Keiko Fujimori publicly signed a “Commitment of Honor,” pledging to “respect Peru’s democracy, human rights and press freedom while fighting corruption.” The document also included new legislative policies aimed at compensating low-income Andean women who were forcibly sterilized during her father’s administration. Moreover, the most enticing aspect included within the Comment of Honor was Keiko’s vow not to pardon her father. Although the Commitment of Honor document aided Ms. Fujimori in garnering the support of many skeptical voters, Pedro Pablo Kuczyknsi won the 95th Presidency of Peru, by a margin of a point, on June 10, 2016.
Upon losing the election, it appears that Keiko Fujimori’s political platform has quickly changed. Although she plans to enter her third presidential race in the 2020 election, Ms. Fujimori has already reneged on the promises encompassed in her Commitment of Honor. On August 17, 2016, Keiko announced that she would seek to exonerate her father through the judicial process, an action that contradicts her former pledges of ensuring accountability measures within the Peruvian governance. Moreover, her plans violate her vow to respect and protect Peruvian human rights.
Unwilling to accept defeat and relentlessly motivated by Ms. Fujimori’s ambitions to become President of Peru, the Popular Force party introduced a new piece of legislation on September 12, 2016 that will seek to change the norms within the electoral systems for the 2020 electorate. The current Peruvian electoral process is founded upon the premise of a ballot system in which there is an open-first round election. In the case that no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the elections continue with a second-round runoff. Keiko Fujimori has led in the first round and reached the second-round runoff stage in the past two presidential elections, while ultimately failing to win the Presidential nomination. The legislation presented by Popular Force Party on September 12, 2016, proposes decreasing the first round 50% threshold system to a 30% threshold system in which a candidate who receives more than 30% of the votes can win the Presidency after the first round of voting.
Marisa Glave, a congresswoman from the left-wing party Frente Amplia, criticized the legislation stating “Mrs. Keiko Fujimori failed twice in winning the electoral process. Now what the Popular Force Party is trying to do is to modify the legislative process so that she may have the possibility of winning a Presidency with less than the 50% +1 vote. ”.
Although a formal vote has to be held for the new legislation, the proposed change to the electoral system prompts additional questions regarding Keiko Fujimori’s promise to respect the integrity of Peruvian democracy. Many opponents remain skeptical as to whether implementing a new electoral system, utilizing a 30% threshold, will truly benefit the democratic will of the Peruvian people, as it appears to be nothing more than an opportunistic ploy enacted by the Fujimori family in hopes of recapturing political power.