Peru’s Kuczynski wins presidential squeaker over Fujimori
By Associated Press | June 10, 2016, 17:05 EDT
LIMA, Peru (AP) — The daughter of imprisoned ex-President Alberto Fujimori conceded defeat to conservative economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on Friday, ending five days of suspense over Peru’s closest presidential election in decades.
In a short statement, Keiko Fujimori wished Kuczynski good luck and vowed to lead a responsible opposition to his government in congress, where her party controls 73 of 130 seats.
But in a not-so subtle jab at Kuczynski, a former Wall Street banker, she accused politicians, business leaders and members of the media of orchestrating a “hate-filled” campaign to discredit her candidacy.
“The country has witnessed a campaign that promoted clashes between Peruvians, that sought and managed to awaken hatred and fanaticism,” she said while surrounded by lawmakers from her Popular Force party.
Fujimori, 41, had been favored to win the presidential runoff after topping a crowded field of candidates in the first round by almost 20 points.
But she hobbled to the finish line after Kuczynski accused her of being a harbinger of a “narco-state” when it was revealed that the secretary-general of her party was being investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for alleged money laundering.
The scandal, which fueled fears of a return to the corruption and criminality associated with her father’s authoritarian rule, proved decisive: After trailing in pre-election polls, Kucyznski prevailed by fewer than 43,000 votes, making it the closest race in Peru since 1962.
“This was a real shock to her,” said Steve Levitsky, a Harvard University political scientist who has spent two decades studying Peru. “She didn’t plan for this scenario. She and her supporters all expected to win for the last five years.”
As Fujimori regrouped, the president-elect on got to work forming his government as regional leaders and the Obama administration offered congratulations.
His first move was to confirm his campaign manager, former JP Morgan investment banker Alfredo Thorne, as his finance minister. For other cabinet picks, he said he’s looking for people with a more political background.
“I’m a technocrat but I need to surround myself with some musicians who know how to play the cajon,” said Kuczynski, referring to the box-shaped Peruvian percussion instrument, in comments to Latina radio.
Kuczynski, an Oxford and Princeton-educated economist, has had a long career in business, most of it in the U.S. Despite being married to an American and having relinquished his U.S. passport only recently, he said his first trip as president would be to China, whose purchases of gold and copper have fueled the country’s decade-long boom.
Despite the bitterness of the campaign, Kuczynski also seemed determined to seek an alliance with Fujimori. The two share a pro-business agenda and Kuczynski even supported her in the 2011 runoff won by President Ollanta Humala.
“In a democracy, all voices are welcome,” Kucyznski said in a message on Twitter thanking Fujimori after she conceded.
Kuczynski’s fledgling party, whose initials echo the PPK moniker with which he’s universally known in Peru, has just 18 seats in congress, so he’ll need to seek alliances.
One way to possibly unlock support in congress is releasing Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year sentence for corruption and supporting death squads during the 1990s.
Keiko Fujimori during the campaign pledged she would never pardon her father, but Kuczynski was more flexible.
In his first interview since being declared winner, Kuczynski said that while he doesn’t favor pardoning Fujimori, he would sign a bill giving older inmates like him the right to house arrest if lawmakers pass one.
Written by Franklin Briceno and Joshua Goodman