Editorial: 2006 Elections: A Challenge to the Political Class
Update 106. 30 November 2004
Politics and politicking have become almost synonymous over the last few years in Peru. The record of the Toledo administration in taking bold steps to resolve Peru's deep-seated problems has been dismal. Scandal and sleaze have been the everyday fare of politics. It is hardly surprising that the average voter is heartily brassed-off.
The 2006 elections are still over a year off, but the lure of elections is already energising parties and their leaders. There is no shortage of comment about who is ahead of whom in the opinion polls, or of talk about alliances and deals. But there is little emphasis on politics, as the serious discussion of alternatives to place before the electorate.
Some of the topics that, in our view, the parties and political leaders might usefully address over the next 15 months:
Poverty: With more than half of Peru living in conditions of poverty, what policies do those who aspire to presidential office have to offer the majority of their fellow countrymen who live off less than US$2 a day?
Unemployment: What will a new government; taking office in July 2006, actually do to resolve problems of unemployment and unregulated employment in the informal sector?
Regional development: What does the political class in Lima have to say to the rest of the country that has been bypassed in terms of investment spending for much of the last century. How can the backwardness of places like Ayacucho or Cajamarca, Puno or Huancavelica be tackled effectively?
Human rights: What sort of guarantees are there that the sort of mindless conflict that led to the death of 70,000 Peruvians between 1980 and 2000 never recurs? What do the candidates think about the need to honour the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
Decentralisation: What do the candidates think about how to make decentralisation - now at least on the statute book - a reality? It's one thing to pass a law, quite another to see it observed. And what are the financial implications of decentralisation?
Democratisation: How can ordinary Peruvians be given more of a voice in the affairs of their localities, thus ending the bureaucratic and authoritarian system of government that has so long typified Peru?
Debt: How can Peru's foreign debt - accumulated by the few but repaid by the many - be made less burdensome? More than 20 years on from the Latin American debt crisis, Peru still pays a high percentage of its tax income and its export revenue in servicing an ever increasing amount of debt.
The Environment: Peru's pattern of natural resource exploitation is unsustainable in the long run. The need to maximise export earnings has a high cost in terms of environmental degradation. Mining is but one example. What do Peru's party leaders suggest should be done to arrest the ecological (and economic) damage? How can minimum standards be enforced to protect the environment?
The list could go on. We would appeal to those who say they want to be Peru's president to make clear what they would intend to do on these matters. Unless they do, voters will simply walk away from the political process, convinced that the elections are just a (costly) game that is about distributing quotas of power and not resolving basic problems. Peruvian democracy will not last another five years in which nothing of substance is done.