Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s (PPK) honeymoon has abruptly ended. Eight months into his administration, the 78-year old economist has a 32-percent approval rating. The government’s slow response to the heavy rains and mudslides that have taken more than 80 lives and caused millions of dollars in damage have further eroded his popularity. The legal case against Vice-President Martín Vizacarra, for his role in helping rescue a construction company that had won the bid to build the new Cusco airport, has also fed suspicions of wrongdoing. Though downward trends in approval ratings are common — especially in Peru — the president’s slow response to the issues at hand threatens to limit his ability to carry out his ambitious reform agenda.
When he surprisingly won the presidential runoff in June, 2016, PPK’s victory was received with enthusiasm by the international community. He narrowly defeated Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori who first implemented market-friendly reforms in the 1990s but also undermined democracy and led a corrupt government while in power. Keiko Fujimori campaigned trying to both distance herself from her father (who is serving time in jail for human rights violations and corruption) and to connect with those Peruvians who have good memories of her father’s administration. Keiko surrounded herself with some of her father’s former associates and PPK won the support of leftists who disliked his market-friendly policies but strongly opposed what Keiko Fujimori represents. Thus, among two market-friendly candidates, the left ended up throwing its support behind PPK and that made him president.
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