President-elect Alan Garcia, the left-leaning populist whose election was confirmed over the weekend, acknowledged that Peru's now chronic economic crisis "poses enormous difficulties."
"But there is no place for pessimism," he added in a statement acknowledging the action Saturday by the National Elections Board. "The people's trust and conviction will not be defeated by the crisis."
The board's confirmation of Garcia, 36, a lawyer, ended a six-week political limbo as ballots from the mid-April general elections were tabulated manually. His margin of victory in unofficial returns assured his eventual confirmation.
Garcia will face immediate decisions on the foreign debt and economic policy after taking office July 28. Peru is about $1.85 billion behind in servicing of its $13.7 billion foreign debt and suffers from a sluggish economy.
Garcia said two days after the election that as president he would defy the pattern of Third World debtor nations and avoid negotiating with the International Monetary Fund a program to stabilize the economy. Peru, he said, would "pass over the fund to address our creditors directly." Major lenders have made an IMF program a prerequisite for debt rescheduling.
While Garcia's statement was interpreted in some quarters as a prelude to repudiation, he has not encouraged that reading in subsequent comments.
Garcia's officially counted 3.5 million votes were more than all the seven other presidential candidates combined. The Marxist mayor of Lima, Alfonso Barrantes of the United Left coalition, got 1.6 million votes (21.3 percent), followed by Luis Bedoya of the conservative Democratic Convergence with 773,705 (10.2 percent).
Garcia's coattails gave control of both legislative chambers to his party, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA), the oldest political organization in the country. It won 32 Senate seats out of 60 and 107 House seats out of 180.
The Popular Action party of incumbent President Fernando Belaunde Terry was able to pull in less than half a million votes for its candidate, Sen. Javier Alva Orlandini.
The political suspense was created by Peru's election law. A presidential candidate needs to receive 50 percent of the vote to win in the first round of voting. However, a law passed in late 1984 required blank and spoiled ballots to be included in this calculation. Garcia got 45.7 percent, thus requiring him to face a runoff election with Barrantes. Without this amended requirement, Garcia would have received 53 percent.
However, in late April, Barrantes cleared the way for Garcia's direct assumption of office by withdrawing his ticket from a possible runoff. The decision was made the day after an assassination attempt against National Elections Board president Domingo Garcia Rada, who was seriously wounded and his chauffeur killed. The Shining Path left-wing extremists, who have battled the government for five years, claimed responsibility.
The National Election Board ruled that Barrantes' resignation was legitimate and that a runoff was not necessary.
Garcia is planning a tour of Europe, with a first stop at the Vatican for an audience with Pope John Paul II, then Paris and Madrid, where he studied in the 1970s, to evaluate potential support from the Socialist governments there.
The president-elect has been overseeing intensive meetings and discussions to help draft a government program. APRA has spent the past half century on the fringes of power. Only in a brief stint in the late 1940s did it participate in government, having two Cabinet ministers. Garcia is courting political independents to expand the party's limited pool of technical talent.