Humala: Victory for the Andean chameleon

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Having reinvented himself as a moderate, Ollanta Humala has an extraordinary opportunity to marry economic growth with social progress

The Economist – from the print edition

Humala: Victory for the Andean chameleon
Since he takes over when Peru’s circumstances have rarely been better, Ollanta Humala has an extraordinary opportunity to be a successful president, says The Economist. (Photo: Reuters)

Five years ago Ollanta Humala, a former army lieutenant-colonel with no previous political experience, came close to winning Peru’s presidency by avowing the statist nationalism practised by Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. On June 5th he achieved his goal, narrowly defeating Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of a populist former president, by 51.5% to 48.5%.

To do so Mr. Humala eschewed Mr. Chávez, modelled himself on Brazil’s social-democratic former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, dropped a leftist government platform he had unveiled only months before and forged last-minute alliances in the centre. Many Peruvians are consequently wondering just which Mr. Humala will start governing their country on July 28th.

The uncertainty prompted the Lima stockmarket index to plunge 12.5% on June 6th, its biggest-ever daily fall, though it later recovered most of its losses. Shares in several multinational mining companies with operations in Peru fell sharply too. In victory Mr Humala has tried to strike a reassuring tone while also offering hope to poorer Peruvians who make up his electoral base.

“It’s not possible to say that the country is progressing when 12 million people are living in miserable conditions without electricity or running water,” he told cheering supporters. But he also promised “a government of national consensus” that would “promote investment and the free market, which is the consolidation of the internal market”.

Mr. Humala’s transition team, announced this week, mixes leftist academics with centrist former officials from the government of Alejandro Toledo (2001 to 2006), a defeated rival who backed him in the run-off. Pundits called for Mr Humala to put an end to the uncertainty by naming key cabinet appointments quickly. These might include Beatriz Merino, a capable centrist, as prime minister. And Mr Humala is said to want Julio Velarde, who is respected by investors, to stay as Central Bank governor.

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