POLITICS: Humala down, but not quite out; Local elections: some candidates barred, others not

31 August 2014

Humala down, but not quite out

July ended with a clash between the executive and the legislature over the ruling Gana Perú’s attempt to appoint one of its own – Ana Solórzano – as the president of Congress for the forthcoming legislature. August ended with an even greater row over the ratification of a new prime minister, Ana Jara, and her cabinet, and the possibility of votes of censure against key ministers.

The new president of Congress was finally approved by the narrowest of margins; it took three rounds of voting in late August for Congress to win congressional approval of Jara and the new cabinet. In the end, Congress split 54 votes for and 54 votes against, with only Solórzano’s casting vote avoiding a clash which could have led to the dissolution of Congress and early elections.

With two years still to go, Peru’s fractious legislature shows every sign of making life as difficult as it can for President Ollanta Humala. Up to now, at least, Gana Perú has been able to count on the support of former president Alejandro Toledo’s Perú Posible (PP) party. But with defections from both of these forces, majorities in Congress can no longer be taken for granted.

Among the prime movers of those seeking further to weaken Humala’s position as president are those whose objective is to replace him in 2016. These include Alan García, the head of APRA, and Keiko Fujimori, the leader of Fuerza Popular (FP). After Gana Peru, FP is the largest single bloc in Congress.

Humala’s position is made weaker by the fact that Gana Perú lacks a candidate to replace him in 2016. The possible candidacy of First Lady Nadine Heredia – long touted as a possibility – now looks increasingly implausible. Although the constitution does not bar it, there is a law which (unless amended or rescinded) bars a member of an incumbent president’s family standing to replace him (or her) in the post. Humala lacks the parliamentary support required to do this, and the leaders of the main parties in Congress have no interest in allowing this to happen.

As August ended, an immediate target for congressional wrath was the minister of energy and mines, Eliodoro Mayorga. Mayorga stood accused of allowing companies in this sector to lobby for contracts. His resignation had been touted as part of the price for Congress to approve Jara’s cabinet. A motion of censure against the minister seemed but a question of time. The ministry is well-known for adopting a position that is closely aligned with corporate interests in the areas of mining and hydrocarbons.

Another minister in the firing line was Luis Castilla, the minister of finance and economy. However, his forced exit seemed less probable than that of Mayorga. The business community, including foreign investors, regards Castilla as the guarantee of continued policy-making that buttresses its economic interests.


Local elections: some candidates barred; others not

On October 5 Peruvians will gather at the polls to elect members of regional and local (provincial and district) governments. Although slow to start, the campaigns are now at full swing amidst the questioning of many candidates’ credentials. The most outstanding issue in the current elections are the proliferation of candidates supported by hastily devised political groups and the fact that some are being prevented from running either for lying in their CVs or being financed by illicit groups.

This is the case for instance of the mayor of the San Juan de Lurigancho district in Lima, who has twice held office for Solidaridad Nacional (SN). He has been found guilty by the National Electoral Board (Jurado Nacional de Elecciones, JNE) of having lied in his CV, falsely claiming to have more than basic-level education. His appeals have so far been unsuccessful and he will not be allowed to compete.

By contrast, the leader of SN and both former mayor of Lima and presidential candidate, Luis Castañeda Lossio, claimed in his CV to be a law graduate from the Catholic University (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú). In fact, he graduated from Universidad San Martín de Porres. He has only been asked to change the information on his CV; this is in spite of having made the same ‘mistake’ in the 2011 election when he was also asked to make the changes.

The El Comercio newspaper notes that five candidates, who had served jail sentences because they were accused of having had links with Sendero Luminoso, have also been allowed to run. There is, however, no legal reason that prevents them from doing so, and they have all presented a full disclosure of their past in their CVs.

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