The starting gun fired for legislative elections

13 October 2019

On 9 October, the government formally announced the holding of legislative elections on 26 January. It instructed the various organisations responsible for organising elections to make the necessary arrangements.

A day later, the Jurado Nacional de Elecciones (JNE) published the timetable for completion of the electoral roll and the deadlines for candidates to register themselves. 18 November will be the deadline for the latter.

The government decree thus complies with its dissolution of Congress announced on 30 September. According to the constitution, in the event of a dissolution, elections must be held within four months. In the interim, a permanent commission composed of a selection of former legislators, keeps the legislative function alive, but legislation must be conducted through executive decrees on which the commission needs to be consulted.

The JNE ruling specifies that the political reforms introduced in August will not apply to the January elections. Among other things, this means that Peruvians resident abroad will be able to vote in the elections, albeit for candidates putting their names forward in the Lima electoral district. In its statement, the JNE urges parties to include as many women as possible in their lists, as the gender parity law will not be valid. Friday’s edition of La República contains the texts of the JNE resolutions.

Politics over the next four months are therefore likely to be dominated by electoral activity as the country’s parties (or what remainS of them) seek to attract voter sympathies. Voters will elect 130 members of Congress. The 26 January elections will be a warm-up for the next general (presidential and legislative) elections just over a year later in April 2021.

It seems likely that those parties whose leaders have been associated with corruption and the attempt to subvert the Vizcarra government will be handicapped in both contests.

These will include, first and foremost, the fujimorista Fuerza Popular (FP) and APRA. The congressional leaders of both are indelibly associated in the public mind with corruption, especially that associated with Brazilian construction contracts. Keiko Fujimori will remain in jail (unless the Constitutional Tribunal decides otherwise) until next April. Alan García, APRA’s leader, committed suicide earlier this year to prevent himself being arrested. APRA is a party that has been hollowed out under García’s autocratic leadership and has lost much of its once strong grass-roots support.

If FP and APRA put forward candidates for election, it will infer their acceptance of the dissolution, the legality of which they have so far contested.

Parties on the right, such as the Partido Popular Cristiano (PPC) are also ensnared with corruption charges arising from the Odebrecht scandal. Other centre-right parties will seek to make their mark in the January elections. They include Acción Popular (AP) whose candidate came out on top in the Lima mayoral elections last year. However, the leadership of AP has seen serious splits emerging in recent times, not least with respect to the dissolution of Congress.

Another centre-right grouping which hopes to make headway is Julio Guzmán’s Partido Morado. Guzmán managed to comply with the Herculean task of registering itself as a party, having gathered more than a million signatures to do so. He has supported dissolution.

On the left, much will depend on whether the Frente Amplio (led by Marco Arana) and Nuevo Perú (led by Veronika Mendoza) can bury the hatchet. They split from one another shortly after the 2016 elections. Personalities rather than policies seem to represent the main source of division. None of their main leaders have so far fallen victim to the Odebrecht investigations, although other potential allies have been accused of corruption.

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