Peru Congress commission says no to mid-term elections and voluntary vote

The Constitution Commission in Peru’s Congress voted yesterday to shelve motions for two amendments to the Constitution that would have created midterm elections for lawmakers, and made voting in those contests optional.

One of the proposed amendments was to incorporate mid-term congressional elections to renew half of the 120-member Congress every two and a half years, a proposal made by President Alan García in his national address in July and that has popular support, particularly in the current climate of rampant corruption within the Congress.*

At present, members of Congress are elected for a five-year term in the general presidential elections. The amendment would cause a major shift in the current system, in which congressional candidates are mostly appointed and not elected by their parties, and as a result are not directly accountable to their constituents.  Mid-term elections would be strongly influenced by constituency satisfaction.

The second motion rejected  by the Commission was a proposal to abolish obligatory voting, and allow Peruvian citizens the right to choose whether to cast ballots in general and local elections.

The Constitution says that all Peruvian citizens between the ages of 18 and 70 must vote in all elections, and their identity card is stamped as proof at the voting booth. Unless granted a dispensation by the National Elections Board for reasons of health or force majeure, citizens who do not vote face a fine and a year-long ban from a number of legal activities that include opening bank accounts, setting up businesses, or selling and buying property.

According to an Ipsos Apoyo poll published Oct. 18 for daily newspaper El Comercio, 86 percent of Peruvian citizens want the vote to be voluntary, and 74% approve the renewal of half of Congress through mid-term elections.  The poll was based on interviews with 1,000 people in Peru’s main cities and had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Both motions were approved by the five members on the commission from Garcia’s ruling Apra Party, but rejected by the remaining 10 members, representatives of different political parties. During the final debates, Congressman Raul Castro, of center-right Unidad Nacional, argued against the voluntary vote because he said it would undermine the strength of the democratic system by placing in the hands of just a few the destiny of millions of Peruvians. According to Apra Congressman Mauricio Mulder, all three opposition parties on the commission had included the voluntary vote in their government plans.

* In a column in early October, analyst Alberto Adrianzén noted that at least 82 members of Congress of every political persuasion and all manner of ideological colors had at least one allegation of impropriety filed against them, embarrassing accusations that included illegal electricity hook-ups for a factory, claiming a Congressional consultant salary for a domestic servant, making their hired Congressional adviser iron shirts, or taking a 50% cut of the consultant’s salary.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *