Regional, local elections approach

29 September 2018

Next Sunday, on 7 September, Peruvians go to the polls to elect new regional presidents and the mayors of district and provincial municipalities.

This should be an important event in the political life of the country. Not only should the elections provide pointers as to the political preferences of the voting public but those elected will be people who, through the canon system spend a good deal of all the money that Peru raises in taxation from its extractive industries.

Also, the electoral results matter a lot if the government is serious about stamping out corruption in public life.

But despite the proliferation of electoral billboards in Lima and other cities, the elections do not seem to have captured the imagination of either the media or the public.

In part, this is because other issues, mainly the ongoing rows between the executive and Congress, crowd out the space in the newspapers and on TV political commentaries. In part, it is because of the dispersion of candidates and their almost total lack of ideological identity. Also, the focus of interest tends to be parochial. In Lima at least, there is little interest in what is going on in the rest of Peru.

Of all Peru’s elective offices, the public office that receives most votes (other than the president and vice-presidents) is the mayor of Lima. One in three Peruvians live in the capital city, a city which suffers from appalling problems of inadequate housing, poor planning, and apparently irresolvable traffic congestion.

There are no less than 21 candidates who want to be mayor of Lima. It would be nice to think that they aspire to this role with a view to tackling the city’s chronic problems. Of the three front-runners, two have pending problems with the justice system.

Whoever is elected will be chosen by a small minority of voters, and will therefore probably lack the legitimacy to adopt the radical overhaul that the city so badly needs.

Elsewhere, as in previous regional and municipal elections, the scene is dominated by localised political parties, their candidates vying with one another with their claims as to who can do most for their local area. It is now a long time since national parties ceased to make the running in local elections, given the weakness of the party system and the depth of public distrust in their leaders.

So, politics at the local level will remain disjointed and fragmented. That fresh faces at the head of regional or municipal administrations will lead to more effective and less dishonest local government is but a forlorn hope.

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    The Peru Support Group exists to promote social inclusion, sustainable development and the observance of human rights in Peru. To that end the PSG highlights shortcomings in observance of established norms, whether international or local in nature, in its research, advocacy and publications. In so doing, it underscores the relationships that exist within the political system, how institutions work, and the effectiveness of policies that aim to reduce poverty and inequality within the context of sustainable development.

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