Opinion: A pile of crap


By Patricia del Río for Perú21
Translated and edited by Jorge Riveros-Cayo

Opinion: A pile of crap
"The JNE treats us like flies, as if we were only looking to go after a pile of crap," says Del Río. (Cartoon: Internet)

“Go eat crap, a million flies can’t be wrong.”

The very first time I read this phrase it was stamped on a teenager’s t-shirt with a clear intention to provoke. It is obviously an ironic criticism to the tendency human beings have to follow what the majority does. If we recall that more than 80 percent of Peruvians supported the self-coup Fujimori made in 1992, and that thanks to the massive support of the population, dictatorial regimes such as Fidel Castro’s have been in power for decades, the phrase is pertinent. However, the majority is not always wrong and just because we do not like their opinion we should hide or deny it.

Independently if they are wrong or not, to know what others think is a way to be informed in order to make our own decisions, to decide if we will follow the path of the majority or if we prefer to take another road instead.
Does it sound elementary? It is for any marketing or publicity expert, or a social scientist or an ordinary citizen; but it is not for Peru’s Elections Jury (JNE) that, as we know, bans the publication of polls one week before elections. The purpose of this norm – that has been criticized to boredom – is that citizens should vote without the influence of the polls. In other words, according to the JNE, Peruvians can choose a candidate for their ideas, or because the candidate gives us a calendar as a gift, or distribute free rice and sugar in my neighborhood, or appears gorgeously on the front cover of a newspaper; but I should not have in mind the fact that millions of Peruvians trust a candidate as part of my criteria to chose one.

Does that have any sense? Of course not. Polls are, at the end, one more element of judgment to make a decision. They are tools that some people use and others do not, but that is part of the universe of information that we have to choose a candidate. People against polls say that the prohibition is good because polls are not reliable, but if they were, the JNE should supervise them and if something irregular would be found, they should be closed down, but not let them publish false information one week before elections. That cannot be the criteria to decide.

Beyond all logic behind this absurd rule, we should ask what consequences can trigger from this abrupt silence in such a tight, unusual election period as the one we have in Peru now? In my opinion, some complicated ones. Let us see: Currently there are four candidates with possibilities to go to the runoff. Two of them, Ollanta Humala and Keiko Fujimori, have a pretty steady vote support not influenced by the polls. Keiko Fujimroi capitalizes her father’s political inheritance and Ollanta Humala has a different proposal that has seduced many Peruvians. Alejandro Toledo and PPK’s votes are interchangeable. Both of them have similar government programs and bet for the same country model. That is why there is so many people willing to change their vote from PPK to Toledo or viceversa, without much problems.

So, what do these voters need to make a final decision? To be sure which one of these candidates can free us from what Mario Vargas Llosa has called an election between cancer and Aids. And for that, people need to evaluate the information in the polls.

Is that wrong? Are we irresponsible for wanting to have polls as an element of judgment into account to make a decision? Of course not. We are simply Peruvians that think it is convenient to evaluate other people’s vote to decide our own. We are such citizens that are requesting to be more informed before choosing. But once again, the JNE, takes away a legitimate right and treats us like flies, as we did not think or evaluate, as if we were only looking to go after a pile of crap.

Patricia del Río hosts a program in Radio Programas del Perú and writes a weekly political column in Perú21. Read her profile of Jaime Bayly in
15 Peruvians of 2010.