In South America's version of the legendarily lesser-of-evils Edwin Edwards-David Duke election, incompetent former president Alan Garcia has won back power in Peru. He defeated the far-left military man Ollanta Humala, the leader of a failed 2000 uprising and a proud ally of Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez.
The result is seen as a repudiation of Chavez and the far left. It isn't quite that simple. The fact that Humala got this far and scored more than 45 percent of the vote is surprising, and wouldn't have seemed possible only six months ago. When the campaign began, Humala was scoring single digit support in a multi-candidate field. As the campaign went on, the Chavez-backed Humala started gaining support, poaching votes from the non-Chavez backed leftist candidates. By the last week of the election Humala was in the lead over Garcia and free market candidate Lourdes Flores Nano. It was in this desperation period when Flores Nano and Garcia started hammering Humala for being propped up by a foreign leader with aspirations of bringing Peru into his sphere of influence—Hugo Chavez. It was a powerful tactic that kept Humala from winning swing voters in Peru's urban areas. He never got off the mat, and Garcia easily won the runoff election.
So while Chavez has been dealt a setback, he played a role in boosting Humala from the candidate of 7 percent of Peruvians to the candidate of 45 percent of them. And while Peru won't be shifting as far left as Bolivia or Venezuela, Garcia represents a shift away from the conservative politics of President Alejandro Toledo. But would it have ended differently if the US had loudly intervened in Peru, instead of letting Chavez bluster? Almost certainly.
I covered some of the issues here after the first round ended in April.