Over the course of the last couple of months, Peru has been gearing itself into a political frenzy in preparation for the national elections on the 3rd of October. I haven’t seen a great deal of enthusiasm from the population, conversations limited to the occasional grumbling complaint about the general state of things or the corruption in politics. Nope, the vast majority of the enthusiasm has been from the candidates.
Applying what seem to be near-identical “Shock And Awe” tactics, each candidate from the extensive range of political parties (27 at the last count) is painting walls and erecting huge billboards, attempting to achieve victory by the simple means of literally covering the greatest square meterage of Peru possible.
Each billboard displays an identikit picture of the gurning candidate, normally giving a cheery thumbs-up and festooned in a shirt with the top button casually undone to exemplify that they are, in one hard-hitting combination, a formal and effective politician whilst still being an easy, approachable man of the people.
In modern politics, it is necessary that your campaign influences an apathetic electorate blessed with attention-deficit disorder with your entire policy summarized in the space of 140 characters. Thus slogans play an important part in the Peruvian politician’s campaign efforts. Unfortunately, all candidates seem to have employed the same incredibly overworked campaign manager and everyone seems to be employing the same messages. To make matters worse, the campaign manager seems to have focussed on promoting things that one instinctively expects from a political leader, occasionally degrading into a blatant brainwashing exercise (see number 5). Here are some examples that I’ve seen replicated amongst the various different candidates:
1) A Trujillo For Everybody!
2) A Team With An Ability To Lead!
3) Honest And Hardworking!
4) Against Corruption!
5) Mayor of Trujillo!
This has the effect of making one wonder why candidates have to make such a fierce point about honesty, equality, ability to perform one’s job, dedication and corruption; parallels rise in the mind of the dubious character that begins every sentence with the phrase, “To be honest…” which inspires the listener only to consider that honesty, when made explicit, is normally absent. Continuing the theme, perhaps the campaign manager should also consider the following:
5) Can Tie His Own Shoelaces!
6) Is Pretty Good At Reading!
7) Has A Lovely Smile! Look!
My personal favourite amongst the candidates, for no other reason than his billboard appearances (and realistically, there isn’t a great deal more to go on) is Fernando Bazan. Screaming the same messages as everyone else, Fernando looks, for all intents and purposes, like he sheepishly wandered onto the billboard and promptly sat on a cucumber. After analysis of his photo, I think this is due to the unfortunate presentation of his teeth.
Aside from the amusing circus, there’s a darker side to the proceedings. “My husband was recently approached by the mayor,” one of my friends tells me, “And told that if he didn’t surrender his wall to be painted for the election, we’d start receiving very expensive water bills.” Despite what the billboards and bricks tell you, corruption and abuses of power are very much alive and well in Peru.