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PPK in a cul-de-sac

Peru: PPK in a cul-de-sac

Politically isolated, and with his credibility in tatters after a hugely controversial Christmas Eve pardon for ex-president Alberto Fujimori, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is now captive to Fujimorismo. The current political landscape bodes ill for Peruvian democracy.

With a score of 6.97/10.00, Peru is classed as a medium-risk country in our Democratic Governance Index 2017-Q3. The score will fall in the next iteration, reflecting the risks to institutional independence -particularly judicial independence -as Fujimorismo consolidates power despite lacking control of the executive.

We expect Kuczynski to face fresh defections in the near term. His minority Peruanos Por el Kambio (PPK) is now reduced to just 15 of the 130 congressional seats and Deputy Juan Sheput has warned that Kuczynski’s re-tooled “cabinet of reconciliation”, due to be announced this week, should not include members of the Fujimorista Fuerza Popular (FP).

Likewise, the left-wing Frente Amplio coalition has advised Kuczynski not to repeat the mistake he made with his first cabinet of technocrats, which proved ill-equipped to deal with the social conflicts in the country. Frente Amplio is the second force in Congress after the FP, and Kuczynski will require its support to have his new cabinet confirmed.

Voters clamouring for a new generation

Before the failed attempt to impeach Kuczynksi in December, the overwhelming majority of voters (94%) told Ipsos that they wanted a more politically diverse cabinet, including independents. This is a demand that Kuczynski clearly is not in any position to deliver now.

As things stand, the president’s approval rating may collapse altogether, increasing the risk of a sudden change in government. Even before the impeachment and pardon saga, Kuczynski’s disapproval rating was a high 68%, while his approval stood at 25%.

Latest polls indicate that the now-friendless president has walked himself down a cul-de-sac from where he may never return.

In a new Ipsos survey, almost two-thirds of respondents felt that the pardon was a quid pro quo deal between Kuczynski and Kenji Fujimori – Alberto’s son - to avoid impeachment. Approval for the pardon stood at 56%, down almost 10 percentage points (from 65%) from before it was granted.

Where to for Fujimorismo?

In addition to its legislative control, Fujimorismo arguably now has de facto executive control. The big question is whether the elderly and allegedly infirm patriarch, Alberto, will force his bickering offspring and rival political heirs - Keiko and Kenji - to put aside their differences and unite under one party leader.

The odds appear weaker for Keiko, whose political standing is becoming more tarnished, not least because of the various corruption scandals hanging over her. Notably, her approval rating in late December was down three points, at 29%.Conversely, Kenji’s was up three points (at 33%), suggesting a direct switch in allegiance from one sibling to the other.

An internal recalibration of Fujimorista forces in Congress now appears certain. Nominally, Keiko still controls the larger bench, with 60 deputies, to Kenji’s 10. A clear shift in Kenji’s favour could put paid to Keiko’s long-cultivated presidential ambitions.

Political risk will remain high

Given Kuczynski’s extreme weakness, Peru could see an early election. Much will depend on political calculations by the Fujimoristas - and the popular reaction of the electorate.

While direct executive control is clearly the ultimate ambition, the boiling-hot political temperature in the country right now is not conducive to the FP. An election at this point would see a massive anti-Fujimorista movement, led by the radical left and heavily youth-backed, and potentially accompanied by an upsurge in civil unrest. Peru already ranks ‘high risk’ on our Civil Unrest Index.

Moreover, while Keiko’s political star has fallen, Kenji’s is not at the point where his presidential candidacy is viable. As such, the party will take a wait-and-see attitude, safe in the knowledge that Kuczynski, beholden, has little room for manoeuvre.

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