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Cablegate: Regional/Municipal Elections: Apathy, Localism

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPE #4366/01 3182216
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 142216Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2982
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 4097
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 7082
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 9918
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ NOV QUITO 0814
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0936
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUMIAAA/CDR USCINCSO MIAMI FL

UNCLAS LIMA 004366

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR PHUM VE PE
SUBJECT: REGIONAL/MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS: APATHY, LOCALISM
DOMINATE IN SOUTH, TOO

REF: LIMA 4271

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Summary:
--------

1. (SBU) Regional and municipal elections have failed to
spark much enthusiasm in the key southern regions of Arequipa
and Ayacucho, where voters appear stricken with "election
fatigue." A plethora of local movements and candidates
pursuing often narrow regional and local platforms
predominates, fragmenting the political landscape. Neither
Ollanta Humala's Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP) nor the
governing APRA party are likely to do well in the upcoming
races, with Humala's prospects in his former southern
strongholds particularly dim. While democratic participation
should be high, a multitude of local leaders representing
diverse groups and elected with narrow pluralities could
complicate governance. End Summary.

----------------------------
Election Fatigue Dogs Voters
----------------------------

2. (SBU) Voters in the key southern regions of Arequipa and
Ayacucho are stricken with the nationwide phenomenon of
"election fatigue," following general elections in April and
the critical presidential run-off in June, according to a
variety of local observers interviewed by Poloffs during
November visits to both areas. For this reason, although
campaigns have entered the final phase and colorful candidate
posters line the streets of the two provincial capitals, an
air of mild indifference regarding the upcoming vote is
palpable.

3. (SBU) Som of this quiescence has to do with the
perceived low nationwide stakes of the regional and municipal
balloting. Local candidates and local political movements
pursuing often narrowly local platforms predominate, which
tends to underscore the geographically limited consequences
of the vote. While some, including the likely winner of the
Arequipa regional presidency Manuel Guillen and many
candidates in Ayacucho, have radical political affiliations,
the provincial focus of the debate tends to level ideological
differences. That is, when they talk about the issues that
move local voters -- better roads, water, sewage, jobs, etc.
-- most candidates sound about the same.

4. (SBU) Moreover, party or group affiliation is in most
cases decidedly secondary to the merits or electoral
prospects of the individual candidates. In Arequipa, the PNP
candidate for mayor is a former Fujimorista with strong local
name recognition and a good track record at the municipal
level. In Ayacucho, Clelia de Verbist of the pro-business
NGO Center for Competitiveness told Poloff that nine
organizations had asked her to be their candidate for
Regional President, including one with connections to Sendero
Luminoso. She declined, noting that these requests reflected
the shortage of credible local leaders and the willingness of
power-seeking groups to sign on anyone with name-recognition.

------------------------
Neither Ollanta Nor APRA
------------------------

5. (SBU) While both Arequipa and Ayacucho awarded pro-Chavez
radical candidate Ollanta Humala overwhelming landslides this
past June (64 percent and 83 percent respectively), support
for Humala's Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP) appears to have
evaporated in both these areas since that time. For one, the
UPP and PNP are each fielding separate candidates in both
regions. Other leftist groups that had coalesced around
Humala in the national elections are also running their own
candidates. That Humala tried to found a new movement in
addition to his PNP party has further undermined his
electoral prospects (Ref A). Most observers agree that
Humala is not a factor in these elections, and to the extent
that his party wins in either region it will be thanks to the
candidates' track record and standing in the community, not
for his or her ideological affinity or political connection
with the radical almost-president.

6. (SBU) APRA will likely be swamped by similar local and

regional tides. In Ayacucho, Garcia's party leads narrowly
in the race for the regional presidency, with incumbent Omar
Quesada, but elsewhere the party is not poised to do well.
In Arequipa, the incumbent regional president who represents
APRA is running a distant third in polls, and the incumbent
APRA mayor is not running at all (thanks to a party
injunction). Many observers believe President Garcia does
not mind the prospect of working with non-APRA regional and
local leaders, and some suspect he would prefer to do so for
several reasons: he can blame inevitable local and regional
governance problems on non-APRA groups; he can successfully
co-opt local leaders with national government favors and
support; and he can maintain his position as the party's sole
center of gravity.

-------------------
Too Much Democracy?
-------------------

7. (SBU) Rules that make it easy for groups to launch
candidacies -- candidates for regional president need the
signatures of just 1 percent of the voters in the previous
election; candidates for district mayorships require only 500
signatures -- have unleashed a wide and diverse array of
competitors on the electorate. But they have also
facilitated a blistering fragmentation of representation in
both regions, where many voters have trouble recognizing who
is who and what the multiple different candidates represent.
This could make effective governance difficult, since it
virtually guarantees that eventual winners will neither
garner majorities, and at times win with threadbare
pluralities, nor enjoy solid governing mandates.
STRUBLE

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