The Low-Down on Political Campaigns

What has struck me as curious about Peru is the high level of political advertising that can be seen everywhere: painted on to the side of houses and fences, bumper stickers, billboards and even etched into the side of mountains.

Campaigning on the side of a taxi
Campaigning on the side of a taxi

Where typically you might expect to see a Coca-Cola or McDonalds advertisement – instead, you will see a painting or poster promoting a political party and what they stand for.

Why is this so prominent right now? Well, Peru has two elections happening over the next six months: one for the local government (which is only a few weeks away) and one for the federal government in early April 2011.

Like Australia, voting in Peru is mandatory and it seems that the political parties take a fairly creative and unique approach to campaigning and promoting themselves. It’s lucky that the Peruvians seem quite passionate about who they will vote for – or I’m sure they’d get a little overwhelmed by all the attention it receives.

Taking campaigning to a new level: plastered on the side of a car
Taking campaigning to a new level: plastered on the side of a car

Particularly when travelling by bus through small towns, I find it really interesting to view the wide range of campaigns. As a foreigner, I’ve found the campaigns a little confusing, yet amusing at the same time.

I had noticed that each poster or painting typically contains a slogan, the name of the party, a photo of the candidate (if it was a printed poster), plus an image depicting what the party stands for. For example, the poster below shows a soccer ball with a big black cross through it.

Does this party say 'no' to soccer?
Does this party say 'no' to soccer?

This approach seemed to be a recurring theme on all posters: grapes with a cross through it, tools with a cross through it, a potato with a cross through it. I’d seen this types of signs before – for example, a  ‘no fumar’ sign (a ‘no smoking’ sign). I wondered: why don’t these parties believe in grapes? why do they say ‘no’ to potatoes? What harm did football ever cause?

It took me a little while to catch on, but the posters are in fact showing Peruvians how they should vote. Come election day, the voting ballots will contain a list of parties with their logo alongside. Peruvians will need to indicate their preference by marking a cross through that logo.

A campaign for an independent political group in the Tambopata region
A campaign for an independent political group in the Tambopata region

In Peru’s Amazon, one Tambopata regional independant party isn’t trying to have motorcycles banned, this is simply their logo.

This region has recently improved their infrastructure by having 130km of newly paved highway created, so I would presume that by voting for this party, Peruvians would be supporting the continuing development of transportation in the region.

Eleanor Tan is a researcher and blogger for the Karikuy Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru.

Eleanor

Eleanor is a user experience designer from Melbourne, Australia who is taking a short hiatus from everyday life to experience Peru and volunteer with Karikuy. Having travelled throughout Europe and Asia she thought it was about time to hit up South America and find out what all the fuss is about. She won't be seen without her camera and loves people watching, when she can get away with it.

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