What happened to the centrists in Peru’s 2011 election? Professor Steven Levitsky lays out the structural weaknesses that led to a surprising election year.
Why would a country vote for political change after a decade of dramatic economic growth? Since 2002, Peru has been one of Latin America’s most impressive economic “miracles,” its GDP growing by around 9 percent in three of the last four years. When Peruvians went to the polls to choose their new president in April 2011, most analysts expected a status quo electoral result ratifying the economic policies of the Alejandro Toledo and Alan García administrations. Surprisingly, however, none of the three candidates backed by Lima’s economic and political establishment made it to the second round. Instead, Ollanta Humala, a former military officer who has long been associated with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and was widely perceived as the most economically heterodox of the competing candidates, faced off against Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former strongman Alberto Fujimori and the candidate of the far-right. In June 2011, Humala was elected president with 51 percent of the national vote.