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Sunday, May 20

Garcia won what he wanted After watching the presidential debate over the Internet, I have concluded that Alan Garcia pulled his punches in a tactical decision to solidify his position as the leader of the "loyal opposition." Trailing Alejandro Toledo Special g c i 275 feature by 10-15 percentage points in the polls and with strong negatives, he threw the debate by being conciliatory and statesmanlike, except for a few jabs at Toledo's alleged use of cocaine. Toledo came across as credible and traded arguments and counterarguments with Garcia.

Garcia is shrewd. He knows that in order to get a "knockout blow" in the debate, he would have had to have taken some vicious, confrontational swings. There were plenty of holes in Toledo's policies to attack. This style would probably have ended up alienating more voters, increasing the number of blank votes. Instead, he scored brownie points for being magnanimous and democratic, calling Toledo by his first name repeatedly and pointing out agreements on key points.

Two weeks before the runoff, Garcia has achieved far more than he could have dreamed back in January when he set foot in Peru for the first time in eight years. He has become the leader of the opposition, has the second largest block in Congress Special g c i 275 feature - first round results and can play a key mediating role during a Toledo government, something that he will relish. He has also tapped a new electorate, the frustrated young urban sector that does not remember the disaster of his presidency Special g c i 275 feature.

In the hypothetical case that Garcia won, he would not have had the economic team to manage the government (Pedro Pablo Kuczynski vs Enrique Cornejo, please!). He would have been handicapped in Congress. He has few links to Lima and international elites, having burned so many bridges in the late 1980s and being in exile for most of the 1990s. Now he can rebuild APRA, pile up political chits and position himself for the next presidential race. He did not sit on Victor Raul Haya de la Torre's knee for nothing.

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