Electoral reforms neutered

7 October 2017

Recent decisions approved by the Fuerza Popular (FP) majority in Congress appear likely to further skewer those put forward by Transparencia and others to remedy the workings of the electoral system in advance of regional and municipal polls in a year’s time.

The Constitutional Commission led by FP Congresswoman Ursula Letona last week presented a bill to reform the current electoral law, concerning gifts to be made to voters during electoral campaigns. The amendment was passed 72 votes in favour, 20 against, and two abstentions.

This section of the electoral legislation led to Cesar Acuña’s disqualification from running in the 2016 presidential contest, although the courts never actually found him guilty. Keiko Fujimori’s supporters were also accused of distributing gifts but, unlike Acuña, she was never excluded from the race. Even Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s campaign was seen giving alcohol to would-be voters at political meetings in the highlands.

Although under the latest changes, the handing out gifts is still considered to be an offence, it will no longer lead to the automatic exclusion of candidates. Those found guilty will be allowed to pay a fine and then only be disqualified if they are found guilty twice.

Marco Arana, the leader of the left-wing Frente Amplio, immediately criticised the move, and his supporters in Congress voted against declaring it would turn voters into clients and would further weaken democratic institutions in Peru. http://larepublica.pe/politica/1106654-frente-amplio-rechaza-norma-que-flexibiliza-entrega-de-dadivas-en-elecciones

Debate on the reforms continued on 5 and 6 October. It is now being proposed that there should be no cap on the money raised through events such as receptions or raffles, the means by which Keiko Fujimori claims to have raised much of her election funding last year. With the changes now being proposed it would be possible for a political party to cover 100% of their costs in this way.

The proposed changes would tighten the rules by obliging individual donors to use bank transactions to make all payments of more than 4,050 new soles (roughly 1,000 pounds). But they also make it a lesser offence to receive funding from illicit sources; rather than exclusion, parties would just pay a fine. Observers such as Fernando Tuesta, the former head of the electoral authority ONPE, say that it would be impossible to enforce this in practice given the number of candidates running next year.

In an editorial, La República makes it clear that there is little appetite for any root-and-branch reform of the rules governing elections and political parties. This is made abundantly clear by the refusal of both Fuerza Popular and APRA to accept proposals that would make it obligatory that parties accept ONPE supervision of their own internal elections. This will simply help strengthen those leaders currently in power and further reduce levels of party transparency and democracy.

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