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Why Peruvian democracy will survive Sunday's election

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Pilar Olivares/Reuters

(Read caption) Peru's presidential candidate Ollanta Humala greets supporters at the end his closing campaign rally in Lima, on June 2. Peru's tight presidential election on Sunday puts right-wing lawmaker Keiko Fujimori against left-wing populist Humala.

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Like many observers and voters, I have serious concerns about both candidates in Peru's election this Sunday. Both have committed serious errors in the past, both have or had ties to people and groups that are a major political liability, and both have proclaimed ideologies and political positions (though now moderated during this second round of the election) that are a concern.

I'm concerned about both, but not so concerned about either one that I'd be convinced to support the other. It's for that reason I wouldn't be surprised to see a pattern of blank or spoiled ballots appear during the vote count in Peru, one that drives both candidates beneath 50 percent of the total vote. There will also be a lot of people describing their vote for the "least bad" or "lesser of two evils."

That said, I think many observers of this election have it wrong when they say that a Ollanta Humala or Keiko Fujimori victory, as compared to the other, would be automatically detrimental to Peruvian democracy.

Democracy isn't just about presidents and presidential elections. Peru needs a Congress that can check the executive branch, an independent judiciary and prosecutors who can go after corruption and human rights abuses, separation of powers among the branches, a free press and robust civil society to oversee the whole system, and a citizen population that is engaged and makes its voice heard.


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