Peru’s 2011 Elections: A Surprising Left Turn

Issue Date October 2011
Volume 22
Issue 4
Page Numbers 84-94
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Read the full essay here.

The election of left-leaning ex-military officer Ollanta Humala in Peru’s 2011 election surprised observers. Peru’s economy had boomed under market-oriented governments in the 2000s. Three factors explain Peru’s left turn. First, in the politically fragmented and volatile environment created by party collapse, three establishment candidates split the moderate vote, allowing Humala and another extra-establishment candidate, Keiko Fujimori, to make the runoff. Second, economic boom notwithstanding, public dissatisfaction and distrust in political institutions remained high, largely due to state weakness. Finally, Humala’s moderate turn helped him win over key middle class voters, while Fujimori failed to distance herself from her father’s authoritarian government. Whereas conservatives fear a Venezuela-like scenario and progressives hope for a Brazil-like scenario, the most likely scenario is a moderate but mediocre government. Humala may attempt to replicate Lula, but with no real party, a weak state, and little experience, he is unlikely to match his success.

About the Author

Steven Levitsky is professor of government at Harvard University and co-chair of the Journal of Democracy Editorial Board.

View all work by Steven Levitsky