Referendum deadline met, but wording changed
6 October 2018
In the event, Congress (in which the Fujimoristas in Fuerza Popular are the majority) complied with the deadline set by the executive and ratified by Daniel Salaverry, the president of the legislature, of 4 October. In the early hours of the fourth, a vote was passed agreeing to the introduction of no re-election of members of Congress.
As readers of the PSG Newsletter will recall, President Vizcarra in his Independence Day speech threw down the gauntlet by announcing four constitutional reforms to be approved through a referendum. These included changes to the way the National Magistrates Council (CNM) is elected, the re-introduction of a bicameral legislature, changes to the laws governing party funding, and outlawing the immediate re-election of members of the legislature.
Passage of the required legislation appears to represent a victory for Vizcarra and the tacit recognition on the part of the Fujimoristas that they had no alternative. The collapse in the popularity of FP and its leader Keiko Fujimori has taken much of the wind out of the Fujimorista sails, at least for now.
However, the Fujimoristas appear to have left something of their imprint on the legislation finally approved. According to Víctor García Toma, a former head of the Constitutional Tribunal (TC), Congress has “adulterated” (“sacado la vuelta”) various of the proposals, introducing new elements to those proposed initially by the executive.
A change has been made to the constitutional provision whereby a president may order the closure of Congress where two votes of no-confidence have been passed in the team of ministers. García says that Congress wants to restrict this to a collective resignation of all ministers. This needs to go before the TC to determine its legality, but there probably will be insufficient time to do so prior to the planned referendum.
Fernando Tuesta has drawn attention to the fact that the restoration of two chambers will mean that there is nothing to stop someone being re-elected as a senator who was previously a deputy or vice-versa. This severely restricts the meaning of ‘no-re-election’ of members of Congress. The wording of the no-re-election clause has been changed from an outright ban on re-election to one applying to the “same post” (“el mismo cargo”).
Another area where the original objectives of the executive have been changed is in the stipulation that no-re-election will not apply to the forthcoming 2021 elections, only to those scheduled for 2026.
The wording of the law on party funding has equally been watered down in the final text approved by Congress, weakening the provision that would force political parties to come clean on their sources of electoral funding.
The La República newspaper provides a useful guide to how the wordings have been changed in each of the four areas to be put to referendum.