Democracy, PPK under threat?
4 December 2017
It was never going to be an easy ride for Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, faced as he is with an absolute control by the Fujimorista opposition in Congress. Despite the presidentialist nature of Peru’s constitution (devised in 1993 by the then president Alberto Fujimori), inability to control Congress can make government impossible.
The two last times that the executive has lacked a majority in Congress resulted in a coup: in 1968 Fernando Belaunde was toppled after years of legislative harassment by an unruly opposition coalition in Congress; and in 1992, lacking a majority in Congress, Fujimori resorted to the autogolpe (self-coup) as a way to close down Congress.
Coups d’etat are supposed today to be something from the past in Latin America, but Peru is showing clear signs of growing political destabilisation, a possible victim being Kuczynski.
The Fujimoristas in Congress are pursuing a strategy devised progressively to weaken the president, notwithstanding concessions made by the executive over the 15 months since Kuczynski’s inauguration. Increasingly, despite denials from leading Fujimoristas, the chance of some sort of presidential ouster appears to be on the increase.
Not only, as we have reported in recent editions of the Newsletter, have attempts to besmirch the reputation of the chief public prosecutor, members of constitutional tribunal and leading press organs (such as El Comercio and Caretas) been a key priority for leading Fujimoristas, but attempts to take on Kuczynski are gaining force.
Up until now, Kuczynski has managed to downplay allegations that he, like his three predecessors as president, was involved in the Odebrecht corruption scandal. However, evidence appears to be emerging that this may not be the case. Questions surround his role as finance minister and later prime minister during Alejandro Toledo’s government, particularly with respect to the contracts to build the Inter-oceanic Highway awarded to Brazilian construction companies, notably Odebrecht.
If, as now seems likely, Odebrecht’s man in Lima, Jorge Barata, accepts to give evidence in return for exemption from prosecution in Peru (see PSG article), the revelations may complicate Kuczynski’s position further. It is within the power of the Congress to hold the president to account and even demand his resignation.
The offensive by the Fujimoristas forms part of a strategy designed to frustrate any attempts to nail Keiko Fujimori for receiving election funding from Odebrecht in 2011. Marcelo Odebrecht has confirmed that money was offered to fund Keiko’s presidential campaign. To prevent attempts to stifle the reopening of a case against Keiko’s confidante and campaign manager, Joaquín Ramírez, the Fujimoristas in Congress are seeking to bring new pressure to bear on the executive office.
We can but wait to see whether the case against Keiko finally trumps that against Kuczynski. It may end up depending more on politics than on judicial considerations. Meanwhile, leading Peruvian commentators appear increasingly sceptical that Kuczynski will serve his full five-year term in office. For instance, see La Republica