Vizcarra on top, for now

17 November 2018

Unusually for a president half-way through a five-year term, Martín Vizcarra is riding high in the opinion polls. The latest opinion poll from Ipsos suggests that two out of every three (65%) Peruvians approve of his management of the country. 

Perhaps his popularity owes something to the fact that is he only took office in March following the forced resignation of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Vizcarra had been vice-president up until that point. But Vizcarra has earned his popularity spurs by taking full advantage of the wave of revulsion against judicial and political corruption and the role of Fuerza Popular in much-publicised scandals that have led, among other things, to the jailing of its leader Keiko Fujimori.

The upturn in his popularity can be dated precisely to Vizcarra’s announcement on July 28 of referendums on reforms to the judicial and political systems. These will take place on December 9.

Four issues will be put to the vote:
• the system by which judges are appointed and removed;
• changes to the rules governing the funding of political parties;
• the reintroduction of a bicameral legislature (the Senate was scrapped in 1993); and
• the prohibition of immediate re-election of members of Congress.

The first two of these are likely to pass, as is the bar on re-election. However, in the process by which the referendums were approved by Congress, FP members muddied the waters by saying that members could achieve re-election to Congress by standing for the Senate (in the case of outgoing deputies) or vice-versa with senators standing for the Chamber. This led Vizcarra to say that, in these circumstances, he would oppose the reintroduction of the Senate.

While Vizcarra’s popularity has risen as that of FP has sunk, it may prove harder to sustain that popularity after the referendums have passed. There are still more than two and a half years to go before his term ends in July 2021.

Politics as usual tend to erode public support for whoever is president. It was certainly the case of Vizcarra’s recent predecessors who, after short honeymoons, all saw their popularity slide.

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