Peru Election 2006

The archived version

The “No Legislative Re-Election” Bandwagon

without comments

Maxwell A. Cameron
January 14, 2006

The topic of re-election of legislators is the flavor of the moment. Since Ollanta Humala proposed that no member of congress in Union Por el Peru (UPP) be allowed to run for re-election, most other leaders have jumped on the no-reelection bandwagon.

Lourdes Flores Nano, candidate for Union Nacional (UN), has insisted that there is a popular “clamor for renovation” and has asked important incumbents to give up their seats to new leaders. Xavier Barrón, the self-styled advocate for seniors, was the first to accede to Flores’ demand, followed by José Barba Caballero. Barrón was first elected in 1978; Barba Caballero has served five terms. Rafael Rey Rey, the leader of the party Renovación, has not yet indicated whether he will agree not to run or will pull out of the UN alliance instead. The irony that a party called Renovation would be squeezed out in the name of renovation has not been lost on commentators.
By turning against highly visible politicians who are questioned by the public, Flores accomplishes two goals: first, she clips the wings of potentially difficult fellow-travelers, and, second, she makes herself appear less beholden to the established political elite.
Had Vargas Llosa done the same in 1990—that is, had he forced leaders from Acción Popular (AP) and the Partido Popular Cristiano (PPC) to step aside—he might have done better. As Vargas Llosa discovered, such alliances can bring both internal problems and besmirch the reputation of a leader who would otherwise be seen as independent.
Flores is by no means the only political leader pushing the no-reelection envelop. Andrade, leader of Somos Perú and a key ally of Valentin Paniagua’s Frente de Centro, has been pushing Paniagua, who is the leader of Acción Popular, to no allow AP incumbents to run. This is easy for Andrade, who has no incumbents in his slate (Andrade’s Somos Peru did not contest the 2001 election). This has prompted an intense, and as yet inconclusive, debate within AP. Important AP leaders have come out arguing that their party has chosen candidates through an internal process and that it is not the business of party leaders to come along and impose their will after the fact.
Rafael Belaúnde, who recently assumed leadership of Perú Posible, has indicated that he wants to sweep the slate of Perú Posible clean. Last night on his television program, César Hildebrandt aired an exposé of four sitting members of congress for Peru Posible. Gerardo Saavedra (the legislator who, in a major Freudian slip, swore his oath of office to “God and money” rather than “God and the homeland”) was alleged to be a nepotist, while another, Victor Valdez, a confessed bigamist. Belaúnde, son of the former president, is seen as an honest and capable person. But there is one problem with his campaign to clean house in Perú Posible. He only just joined the party as leader, in a move that was widely seen as opportunistic.
Leaders of the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) have enjoyed distinguishing themselves from the other contenders in this election by stressing that their candidates are selected through an internal democratic process. They question the idea of total renovation of candidates, and argue that it may violate of the law of political parties to change candidates once they have already been duly selected.
Notwithstanding the gloating, APRA is embroiled in a dispute of its own over invited candidates. APRA reserves a number of congressional seats for special invitees. Alan García is arguing for placing invited candidates at the top of the party lists, which is important because in Peru’s electoral system the top ranked candidates have a better chance of getting elected. Incumbent members have expressed unhappiness with this proposal.
Party leaders have many motives for opposing reelection to congress. Purges may have been desired anyway. And it looks good to obey the strong desire for change, expressed in the rejection of virtually all politicians who have actually held office. However, public debate on the topic has not reflected on some of the possibly unintended consequences of this sweeping repudiation of the political class.
In the first place, Peru’s congress is likely to be, as in 2001, filled with neophytes with minimal experience or knowledge of the legislative process. The exception would be APRA, and its legislators are likely to exercise disproportionate influence as a result. This is hardly the outcome desired by those who seek renovation.
Second, the balance of power between the branches of government, and between congress and the bureaucracy, is likely to be affected. A congress without experience will have difficulty taking initiative and exercising the powers of oversight and inquiry that are its attributes under the constitution. Staffers and bureaucrats are likely to run the show much of the time.
Finally, further damage could be done to parties and the party system. The legislature is a place where party leaders are socialized and acquire experience, and it provides resources that could be used for building party organizations. Moreover, if legislators know that they are unlikely to be able to run for re-election, their incentive to act in ways that will be rewarded with reelection is diminished.

Written by Michael Ha

January 14th, 2006 at 7:15 pm

Spam prevention powered by Akismet