Peru's electoral council blocked the candidacy of Julio Guzmán yesterday. He was the main challenger to front runner Keiko Fujimori.
The council voided his candidacy citing technical reasons having to do with the mechanism by which his party had chosen him as its candidate, reports the Associated Press.
His Todos por el Perú party questioned the ruling, and will appeal it, reports La Mula. But the party also questioned the fairness of how the electoral council is applying technical rules, pointing to inconsistencies with how other parties selected presidential candidates.
A third candidate, César Acuña, of the Alianza para el Progreso, has also been eliminated from the running, after the council found him guilty of buying votes in Chosica, reports Living in Perú. He was fourth in the running, and is also appealing the decision, reports the Global Post.
The ruling, barely a month before the April 10 first-round presidential vote, has been met with widespread ridicule in Peru and warnings that faceless bureaucrats were threatening the legitimacy of the entire presidential contest, according to the GP.
The exclusion of Guzmán on a red-tape technicality is a hard blow for Peruvian democracy, writes Harvard political science professor Steven Levitsky in his La Republica column (written last month). Candidates whose participation doesn't violate existing laws (such as reelection beyond permitted terms or being related to a sitting president) must be allowed to run, he writes.
The question remains, who is most benefitted from this surprising last-minute decision, reports La República. It's not clear who the candidates' voters will migrate towards. The decision has voters clamoring for the same strict interpretation of the law to be applied to other candidates.
The council is also considering complaints against Fujimori, who is accused of having distributed money and goods at campaign events, reports La Mula. The council must decide by next week if she can run. If she is not sanctioned, the electorate may well feel the vote is rigged in her favor, according to the Global Post piece. (La Republica has a more in-depth report on the accusations.)
Fujimori is running on the hard-right legacy of her father, the discredited former President who is mostly remembered for his legacy of high crimes. She is the face of an improbable political comeback that is said to be orchestrated by the family patriarch from his jail cell, reports Foreign Policy. Her popularity is demonstrative of a national disenchantment with democratic institutions and politicians, according to experts cited in the piece.
Separately, La Mula reports on rumors of ties between the electoral council and the Apra party, whose candidate is former president Alan García.
Guzmán had surged in opinion polls that showed him preferred by about 17 percent of voters compared with 35 percent for Fujimori, according to the AP.
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