Source: NACLA Report on the Americas
Susana Villarán’s electoral defeat in Lima is instructive for left-wing leadership in Latin American cities where the left remains weak.
On October 5, 2014, a resounding 50.6% of voters in Lima, Peru, elected Luis Castañeda Lossio for a third term as mayor (he had previously served as mayor in 2003-2010). The center-left incumbent Susana Villarán of the relatively new Social Force Decentralization Party (FS) came in third with 10.7% of the vote, trailing the 17.9% of Enrique Cornejo, candidate of APRA—the establishment center-left party. Although these results were widely anticipated in the run-up to election day, much of Lima remains dissatisfied with Castañeda’s win. Whereas in 2006, then-incumbent Mayor Castañeda won re-election with majority support in 27 of Lima’s 43 districts, in the 2014 contest he only won 12 districts.
Building on our previous articles about Villarán’s administration and campaign, here we discuss Villarán poor showing at the ballot box and its relevance for leftist candidates in the Latin American metropolis. Although various explanations have emerged in election post-mortems, we find that the cumulative weight of four years of well-financed media attacks significantly crippled Villarán’s capacity to publicize and take credit for her administration’s achievements. Compounded by a lack of a viable metropolitan or national coalition, Villarán’s reelection campaign always faced long odds. But her defeat may nonetheless prove instructive to left and center-left candidates in urban settings where the left remains weak.