Peru Election 2006

The archived version

Yale University Forum on Fujimori

with 5 comments

Report on a Round Table ‘Fujimori: From Fugitive to Candidate?’
By Fabiola Bazo and Maxwell A. Cameron
Yale Center for International and Area Studies, New Haven, CT,
December 2, 2005

On December 1, 2005 a round table discussion was held at Yale University sponsored by The Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies, The Latin American Series at Yale Law School, The Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for International Human Rights, the Canadian Studies Committee, and the Yale Center for International and Area Studies (YCIAS). The topic was “Fujimori: From Fugitive to Candidate?”
Participants included: Enrique Mayer (Yale University); Julio Carrion (University of Delaware); Natalia Sobrevilla Perea (Yale University); Julia Maria Urrunaga (Yale University); Andres Mejia Acosta (University of British Columbia); Akira Watanabe (University of Tokyo); Maxwell A. Cameron (Yale University/UBC); Fabiola Bazo (Yale University).
previews-fujimoriforum - 1.jpg
Enrique Mayer introducing panelists

One of the main challenges facing the participants in the workshop was to assess the relevance of Fujimori in the elections slated for April of 2006. Julio Carrion took the position that Fujimori’s importance is limited. According to Carrion, when Fujimori traveled to Chile in early November he expected to be briefly detained and then released; he probably did not think Chile would extradite him. He may have been encouraged in this belief by the fact that Chilean authorities have refused to extradite a number of prominent Peruvians in the recent past. What Fujimori did not anticipate, however, was that Michelle Bachelet, the front-running candidate for the presidency in Chile, would vocally demand a strong response from the Chilean government. Not only was Fujimori detained, he has been held without bail and denied the privilege of speaking to the media.
previews-fujimoriforum - 2.jpg
Julio Carrion
Other participants suggested that while Fujimori has been detained, his electoral base remains significant. Some polls estimate that as much as 15-18 percent of the electorate support Fujimori’s party, Si Cumple, and there have been a number of public demonstrations in support of the return of Fujimori. Natalia Sobrevilla argued that Fujimori retains the support of many voters, even tought they recognize he made mistakes. She described conversations with supporters of Fujimori who accept that corruption occurred under his government, and that he was responsible for illegal acts and violated human rights, and yet insist that he was successful—even in his wrongdoing. For such voters, Fujimori is admired as a leader who did what had to be done during a period of crisis.
Sobrevilla thought that while Fujimori will probably not be able to run in next year’s election, he should not be discounted. Other participants suggested that Montesinos (the former de facto head of the SIN, or National Intelligence Service, under Fujimori) may also have cards up his sleeve that he has not yet played. Julia Urrunaga noted that Fujimori, in an effort to assert the vestiges of the blackmail power he once had, claimed to have a set of Vladivideos (videos taken by Montesinos while he was in control of the SIN) that he might release upon his return.
Carrion argued that even if Fujimori retains some loyalty among followers, he has never been successful at transferring these loyalties to other candidates. Jaime Yoshiyama, for example, was defeated when he ran for mayor of Lima in 1995 on the Cambio-90/Nueva Mayoria ticket. Moreover, the polls show that a strong majority (well over 60 percent) of Peruvians disapprove of Fujimori and do not want him to run in the 2006 election. Max Cameron argued that the congressional ban on Fujimori holding public office is an example of a “law with a proper name.” It exemplifies a judicial action by the legislature in violation of the principle of the separation of powers. There is a danger that such a ban, as Sobrevilla suggested, will lack legitimacy in the eyes of Fujimori’s supporters. This is especially undesirable in a country like Peru where agreement on constitutional essentials is limited. At least one candidate, Ollanta Humala, has rejected the 1993 constitution, in favor of a return to the 1979 constitution.
Regardless of whether Fujimori’s claim to be eligible to run in the 2006 election is legal or ethical, it creates a dilemma for the mass media. Julia Urrunaga argued that senior journalists in the Peruvian media have a paternalistic habit of making decisions about whether to cover news stories based on what they think their readers need to know. This practice is often justified as “responsible journalism.” For example, editors may opt to downplay Fujimori, and some surveys may be reluctant to even ask voters about whether they intend to vote for Fujimori, because this could be seen as giving credibility to his candidacy. In light of the fact that the media was heavily manipulated under the Fujimori regime, especially in his second term (1995-2000), Urrunaga argued that journalists should focus on their primary responsibility—to inform readers, and provide them with information they could not otherwise easily come by.
previews-fujimoriforum - 3.jpg
Julia Urrunaga
Another area for discussion concerned assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of the other candidates. Again, Julio Carrion generated lively discussion with his assertion that Lourdes Flores Nano should be taken very seriously as a candidate with a good chance of placing at least in the runoff. He also suggested APRA should be taken seriously as a possible runner-up. In 2001 Flores Nano was a frontrunner, but her candidacy collapsed and she failed to make it into the second round. This time, however, she may do better. For one thing, her appeal is more broadly based. She has managed to win support not only in Lima, but also throughout Peru, and she has substantial appeal among female voters, voters of all ages, and especially youth. Her candidacy may be given further impetus if Valentin Paniagua does not gain traction.
All participants assumed a second round will be necessary, so a key issue is who will be the number two candidate? One consequence of the rise of Humala is to boost the prospects of APRA. Humala, who a number of panelists characterized as a mix of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, may well help Garcia’s cause, for two reasons. First, he may divide the protest or anti-system vote. That is, voters who reject the established political class may be split between Humala’s party and Fujimori’s Si Cumple. Second, if Humala gains ground, many voters may be so worried about him placing in a second round that they may choose Garcia in the hope of creating a runoff between the APRA candidate and Flores rather than Humala and Flores.
Carrion’s optimistic view of Flores Nano’s prospects is based, in part, on the premise that Humala’s candidacy has serious weaknesses. Humala is like Fujimori in 1990 in that he has no organized party or coherent program, and a number of analysts noted the similarities between the current situation and the election in 1990. In 1990 Fujimori emerged as the dark-horse candidate as voters sought to find an alternative to the front-runner (Vargas Llosa) and the APRA candidate (Alva Castro). Humala aspires to a similar dynamic, placing in the second round and then winning in a runoff. But Humala has a much stronger ideology and will have more difficulty winning the support of centrist voters. He could put on a suit and tie and talk a more moderate line in an effort to shift to the center and increase his appeal in Lima and among the middle sectors, but this would alienate his base. There was also some discussion of whether Humala is unappealing to female voters.
Few Peruvian voters like to be located on a left-right spectrum; when opinion researchers ask voters to identify themselves in this way, most refuse. The majority of those voters who do reveal their ideological preferences are located in the center. But there is a second cleavage that cuts orthogonally across the left-right continuum, as Andres Mejia noted, and that is between insiders and outsiders. Voters are often faced with a choice between whether to support candidates who are from the established political parties and outsiders who oppose not only the government but also the political system itself.
A problem for Lourdes Flores is that she is an insider. She comes from the ranks of the Popular Christian Party (PPC), which has tended to have little appeal outside Lima, and she is visibly allied with other established political leaders. The biggest danger to her candidacy might well be the very prospect of success. When victory looks promising, her supporters and allies may start acting as if power is within their grasp. Nothing turns off the voters more quickly than the sight of politicians competing for the spoils of victory before the voters themselves have registered their preferences. The preferential vote, which has been adopted in previous elections and may be used in this election as well, is potentially damaging because it encourages candidates within the same list to compete against each other.
Whoever wins the presidential elections is unlikely to have a majority in congress. Andres Mejia Acosta helped place the elections in Peru within a broader regional context, noting the impending changes to the region’s electoral map. He observed that there are many elections occurring simultaneously in the region—13 in 2006 alone. It is most likely that minority governments will dominate the electoral map in Latin America.
Presidential runoffs increase the likelihood of presidents being elected with weak legislative support, while the proportional representation (PR) formula contributes to fragmented legislatures. Minority governments tend to be a source of instability because they rest on often fragile and shifting coalitions, especially where parties are weak. This instability can be exacerbated by ethnic politics, which is a major issue in neighboring Ecuador and Bolivia. The combination of weak democratic institutions, and ethnic or regional conflicts, as well as disputes over natural resources and economic policy, has unleashed a wave of instability in the region.
The rise of Humala in Peru could accentuate the political volatility of the other Andean countries. The weakness of the rule of law means ex-presidents with legal problems are are free to run in future elections. Examples include Gutierrez and Bucaram in Ecuador, Sanchez de Lozada in Bolivia, and Fujimori in Peru. Voters are often given the choice between “playing the lotto” and choosing an outsider, or electing a “known devil,” that is, an ex-president. The participation of outsiders and former presidents who lack majoritarian support in the next Peruvian election, is likely to contribute to a new cycle of instability in the Andean subregion.
previews-fujimoriforum - 5.jpg
Akira Watanabe
Another aspect of the international implications of Fujimori’s departure from Japan was addressed by Akira Watanabe, who asked whether it was valid for Fujimori to claim both Peruvian and Japanese nationalities. His answer was a qualified “yes.” As the son of a Japanese couple, Fujimori became Japanese when his father registered his birth at the consulate in Lima, which was recorded in the Fujimori’s family hometown in Kumamoto, Kyushu.
The Japanese government strengthened regulations for dual citizenship after 1985. Those who have double nationality must choose either Japanese or another eligible nationality by submitting to the government a Nationality Election Form. There is an obligation to try to abandon foreign nationality under the Japanese law, but there is no particular punishment clause, as it might be difficult to check if they actually renounced the other nationality; in some cases it is impossible to renounce the other citizenship where the other country’s national law does not allow it.
In Fujimori’s case, he is obviously trying to get the benefits of both nationalities due to a loophole in regulations about dual nationality in Japanese nationality law. According to the Ministry of Justice, Fujimori, who had dual nationality (even if he didn’t know about it or was not interested in it) before the 1985 law, is not required to present the Nationality Election Form. He was automatically regarded as if he presented the form and chose the Japanese nationality. This is controversial, but according to the Ministry of Justice, and general legal interpretation in Japan, Fujimori did not choose Japanese nationality voluntarily. As a result, renouncement of other nationality is not an obligation. Fujimori holds Peruvian and Japanese nationalities, but he has not claimed dual citizenship. Watanabe does not think Fujmori ever thought of himself as a Japanese citizen, at least until now. In his farewell letter to Japan, published in the Nippon Foundation website, Fujimori refers to Japan as “the land of my ancestors,” but not as his country.
Fabiola Bazo introduced the weblog “Peru Election 2006” and discussed how it has evolved since it was publicized shortly after Fujimori’s decision to fly to Japan. She noted that interest has been especially keen from readers who want to know more about Ollanta Humala, that most of the readership is from Peru, and that the majority of readers speak Spanish.
previews-fujimoriforum - 6.jpg
Fabiola Bazo
Cameron concluded the discussion emphasizing that the early appearance and precipitous rise of Humala may well indicate that the Peruvian electorate is becoming more politicized, less afraid to talk about ethnic issues, and that there may be fewer undecided voters than in previous elections.
previews-fujimoriforum - 7.jpg
Maxwell A. Cameron
Questions from the audience focused on Fujimori’s strategy; on the implications for Peru of the elections in Chile, Bolivia, and elsewhere; the extent of support or opposition to the FTAA and whether it is a factor in the elections. One possibility that emerged in the discussion is that Fujimori may well intend to enhance the legislative standing of his party in the hope of being able to cut a deal with a minority government to allow him to return. This, however, assumes the legislative representation of Si Cumple will increase over four seats that Fujimori’s movement currently controls.
The discussion continued over lattes in a nearby café and dinner at a local Latino restaurant.
previews-fujimoriforum - 8.jpg
Natalia Sobrevilla and Andres Mejia
List of Participants:
– Enrique Mayer, Professor, Anthropology, Chair, Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies
– Julio Carrion, Associate Professor, Political Science and International Relations, University of Delaware, Newark
– Natalia Sobrevilla Perea, Lecturer, International Affairs Council, Yale Center for International and Area Studies
– Julia Maria Urrunaga, Yale Center for International and Area Studies, former editor of El Comercio, Lima, Peru
– Andres Mejia Acosta, Killam Post-doctoral Fellow, University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, Canada
– Akira Watanabe, University of Tokyo, Japan
– Maxwell A. Cameron, Canadian Bicentennial Visiting Professor, Yale Center for International and Area Studies (on leave from UBC)
– Fabiola Bazo, Research affiliate, Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies.
We were fortunate to be able to count on the able assistance of Jean Silk and Sydney Frey in the Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies.

Written by Michael Ha

December 2nd, 2005 at 3:00 pm

Spam prevention powered by Akismet