Today, 18 November, is the final day for parties to present their lists of candidates for the 26 January legislative elections. Former members of Congress, along with ministers from different governments in the past, are scrambling to board the train that, they hope, will lead to them being elected to the Congress which will end in July 2021. If elected, it will also offer them immunity from prosecution, a valuable prize for some.
For many observers, the prospect of members of Congress seeking re-election appears to violate one of the principles on which Peruvians voted in the referendum in December last year. It also makes something of a mockery of President Martín Vizcarra’s attempt to cleanse the parliament of the sort of corruption of which it is accused and to end the constitutional stand-off that has been a key characteristic of Peruvian politics since the 2016 elections.
However, the Jurado Nacional de Elecciones (JNE), in a 3-to-2 vote last week, chose to allow members of the previous Congress, dissolved on 30 September, to run for election in January. The reasoning of the majority, it seems, was that that the new congressional term is an extraordinary extension of the previous one, and therefore not a new one.
Vizcarra had little alternative to accept the JNE’s decision with good grace, pointing out that it will be up to individual voters to exercise their voting rights with vigilance. “Every citizen has to be concerned about [the country’s] institutions, and a particularly important one is the Congress of the Republic which will be newly elected and it is fundamental that we [vote] with reflection” he said “Put effort into analysing the candidates”.
Víctor Ticona, president of the JNE, has urged them not to present candidates with criminal records. He also hopes they will present lists with a gender balance.
Some observers, including those with experience of the workings of elections in Peru, thought it a mistake to prevent immediate re-election. They thought that it would lead to experienced politicians being side-lined and Congress being dominated by neophytes.
As we pointed out, many fujimoristas, have opted to run as candidates for parties other than Fuerza Popular. The FP brand has been widely discredited in recent years, and these former parliamentarians appear to see it as to their advantage to run under different banners. In particular, several leading figures have joined up with Solidaridad Nacional, the party of twice former mayor of Lima Luis Castañeda Lossio. Castañeda faces corruption allegations of his own. Other fujimoristas have opted to run for parties such as Vamos Perú and Avanza País. Martha Chávez, the fujimorista stalwart from the times of Alberto Fujimori’s government heads up the FP list.
If, as seems to be increasingly likely, the next Congress bears more than a passing resemblance to its predecessor, it is hardly likely to instil confidence among a highly sceptical electorate, especially younger voters who are particularly critical of the status quo (see report on PSG conference).