LIMA - The Organization of American States (OAS) expressed concern Thursday over the timing of the disqualification of candidates from Peru's presidential race and said it was sending an observer mission for the election, in which the daughter of jailed strongman Alberto Fujimori is the front-runner.
The decision by Peru's electoral board to bar Keiko Fujimori's main rival on a technicality just one month ahead of the April 10 vote has sparked charges of political chicanery and a vow by economist Julio Guzman to fight his disqualification.
The board voided Guzman's candidacy on a 3-2 vote Wednesday, claiming the mechanism by which his party chose him violated its own internal rules.
Analysts called the ruling petty, noting that never before in Peruvian history had a candidate been so stricken from a presidential race. Others wondered why no one found fault with how Guzman was chosen until it became clear that he had become the lone serious challenger to Fujimori.
“While the system of challenges laid out in electoral legislation upholds the right to a hearing and judicial appeal, the timeframe set for the presentation of motions to disqualify candidates leads to uncertainty in both the electorate and the candidates themselves,” the OAS said in a statement.
It said it would send an observer mission to Peru on Monday to follow up on preparations for the vote and to meet with election officials, political organizations and representatives of civic groups.
Guzman wasn't the only presidential candidate disqualified Wednesday. The board also found Cesar Acuna, a private university entrepreneur, broke the law by handing out cash at a campaign event. He had recently been running a distant fourth in polls.
Guzman's party said it would file an “extraordinary appeal” to the top electoral court against his disqualification. It urged officials to resolve the issue quickly because the ballots with the pictures and symbols of the candidates will start to be printed Saturday.
Guzman had surged in opinion polls, with recent surveys saying he had the backing of about 17 percent of voters, while 35 percent supported Keiko Fujimori, whose father is imprisoned for corruption and authorizing death squads. No other candidate polled above 10 percent.
With no candidate expected to win a majority of votes required to win the April 10 election outright, Guzman would have likely faced Keiko Fujimori in a June 5 runoff.
Keiko Fujimori narrowly lost a 2011 presidential runoff to current President Ollanta Humala.
Guzman is a 45-year-old former deputy minister in Humala's administration. A technocrat with a doctorate in public policy from the University of Maryland, he previously worked for the Inter-American Development Bank.