The difficult task that awaits PPK

Starting from that melancholy premise, there are three equally uncomfortable realities...

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski won by a hair, but he won. I suspect that the more sensible international community  has welcomed that victory. Peru is not on a bad track and nobody wanted it to derail.

PPK is separated from Keiko Fujimori by barely 39,000 votes of a total of roughly 17 million voters. The Fujimori surname polarized the citizens. Half the country voted for her, the other half against her. It wasn’t Kuczynskism that won, but anti-Fujimorism.

It is important that PPK, a valuable and intelligent man, realize that circumstance. Most of his compatriots did not elect him because of his virtues and knowledge (which he has) but because of his contender’s origin. It is a phenomenon typical of second-round voting systems. The first time, you vote with your heart; the second, with your liver.

Starting from that melancholy premise, there are three equally uncomfortable realities.

The first one is that a majority of Parliament is pro-Fujimori: 73 of 130 deputies are members of Fuerza Popular, the nation’s largest party. They are to be reckoned with.

The second is that the parliamentary group of the populist-Chavist left, the Frente Amplio (Broad Front) — which may have awarded PPK the presidency through the support he received from Verónika Mendoza, intent on barring the way to Keiko — will wage war from the start. There will be no honeymoon or 100 days’ breather. The Frente Amplio will be a tenacious and formidable enemy.

The third, derived from the previous two factors, is that PPK will be a very weak president who will have to forge consensus and rely on all the factors dispersed through the complex political panorama to be able to do a minimal job at the helm. It would make no sense to dig into the past to avenge old offenses.

Although scant, some political capital remains in Ollanta Humala’s hands. PPK will have to pick up the rubble of Aprism, Alan García included. Will have to borrow from Belaundism, whose candidate, Alfredo Barnechea, played an important role in the election. From Alejandro Toledo, who governed correctly when he held office. What I mean to say is that the Peruvians, despite their anti-Fujimori passion, did not elect PPK to fix their past but to set their future.

To that end, PPK will have to wink compassionately at Fujimorism. The simplest way would be to send Alberto Fujimori home to serve his sentence there. He has been in prison for a decade, is 77 years old and suffers from cancer. Even the anti-Fujimorians wouldn’t object. Peruvians are not vengeful.

That 50 percent of voters who voted for Keiko would see that gesture as an olive branch.  It wouldn’t be harebrained to think of an alliance that could lead to good governance. If PPK cannot govern against Fujimorism, perhaps he will have to govern with it. After all, the socio-economic visions of both movements are compatible and share the same enemy: the Chavist neopopulism that is still ravaging Latin America, even though it is on its way to extinction because of its awful performance.

What should PPK stress? According to the polls, the big issues that worry Peruvians are street crime, corruption and enough economic growth to provide a better quality of life and more job opportunities.

As a good social scientist with longtime experience, PPK has read the World Bank’s study on the wealth of nations, published in 2005. That wealth does not flow from natural gifts or the productive apparatus. It can be found in the institutions of law, in education or the human capital and in the habits and customs that constitute the civic capital. It is these intangible factors, mixed in various ways, that enable the gradual enrichment of societies.

PPK’s great legacy would be to increase that patrimony, even if brings him little political profit. After all, glory is also intangible.