Referendum result: Yes, Yes, Yes, No

10 December 2018

The results from the referendums on 9 December were in line with what was widely expected and represent support for the positions adopted by President Martín Vizcarra.

There were large majorities for the proposal to introduce the Junta Nacional de Justicia (JNJ), replacing the discredited Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura (CNM), the body charged with appointing and dismissing both judges and public prosecutors (fiscales). The JNJ will have a different electoral system from that of the CNM.

Similarly, voters approved proposal to tighten up the rules regarding party financing, especially regulation of paid party advertising. They also gave thumbs up to the proposal to prevent the immediate re-election of members of Congress. Members of the existing Congress (who are widely reviled in opinion polls) will therefore be unable to stand again in 2021.

Finally, voters rejected a fourth proposal that would have reinstated a second chamber. The Senate was abolished by the 1993 constitution. Its reinstatement was one of Vizcarra’s original proposals, but he changed his mind following the decision by Congress to include a clause in the enabling legislation that would have interfered with the constitutional right of the executive to dissolve Congress in specific circumstances.

According to rapid counts, the percentages of approval/disapproval in each case were 86%, 85%, 85% and 90% respectively.

The extent to which these reforms will lead to real and substantive improvements in the ways in which Peru’s political and justice systems work has been the subject of wide discussion. In particular, the third proposal (the no-reelection of members of Congress) may not have the intended result of improving the quality of Congress and its decisions since a fresh batch of members every five years will prevent the accumulation of legislative experience.

If the referendum results fail conspicuously to improve matters, pressure may grow for a wholesale change of the existing constitution.

The referendum result represents a powerful endorsement for Vizcarra and one in the eye for the present legislature and its Fujimorista majority. However, this victory may bring only a temporary boost to Vizcarra’s popularity. He still has two and a half years to run as president, and he may now become the target for voter discontent.

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