Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Peru's ongoing electoral upheaval: leading candidates disqualification upheld (March 16, 2016)

On Monday Peru's electoral board rejected appeals from barred presidential candidates Julio Guzmán and César Acuña, reports Reuters. Both were seeking to be reinstalled in next month's election after being disqualified last week. (See last Thursday's post.)

Guzmán, who was polling in second place, was barred due to a technical procedural violation in his party's nominating process. Acuña, was disqualified for giving cash to voters at a campaign event, falling foul of a new law against vote-buying.

Yesterday, European Union and OAS election observers said the unprecedented decision by Peru's electoral board must be respected, reports Reuters. Both, however, emphasized the need for reforms to Peru's electoral system so that candidates are not disqualified so close to elections.

One of the issues at hand, said the international experts yesterday, is that the legal framework permits divergent and even contradictory interpretations, reports La Mula.

The InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights decided to hear an appeal from Acuña , reports La Mula.

The Washington Office on Latin America called the original decision to exclude Guzmán "an affront to democracy and the rule of law." The organization's statement marks the proximity of the elections, which are scheduled for April 10, as an issue of particular concern.

The electoral board's decision is a game-changer for the election. An Ipsos poll published in El Comercio on Monday has PPK beating first-round front-runner Keiko Fujimori by one point in an eventual second-round. That includes a 17 percent of the electorate that would cast blank ballots and another four percent undecided.

Over the weekend the market friendly candidate jumped back into second place, reports Reuters. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) rose by five percentage points to 14 percent of voter support after his key rivals were eliminated from the running last week.

The polemic has stoked arguments against Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori. She's questioned for similar motives as Acuña, and faces five motions for her disqualification for handing out gifts at a campaign event, reports El Comercio

A thousands strong demonstration outside of the electoral board yesterday -- the second in a week -- demanded Fujimori's exclusion as well, reports La MulaLa República emphasizes youth and social movement participation in the gathering yesterday which was peaceful.

And the race keeps losing candidates. Last week the governing Peruvian Nationalist Party withdrew its presidential candidate, Daniel Urresti and its legislative candidates, reports El Comercio. Though the decision was officially due to the electoral boards decisions against other candidates, some analysts say it was motivated by a fear that the party's candidates wouldn't garner the minimum 5 percent of the national vote needed to remain an official party, according to Peru Reports.

The party decision, led by President Ollanta Humala and First Lady Nadine Herrera reportedly has the now former candidates and party faithful angered. Urresti said he might form a new party after the election, reports La Mula.

Guzmán, the surprise second-place runner of the race, up until last week, had grown in the polls from under 1 percent in December to nearly 20 percent early this month. Americas Quarterly has an interview with the center-right technocrat who worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington for 10 years, conducted before Monday's decision. He accuses the electoral board of acting politically in barring his candidacy, and of having a double standard when it comes to other similar technical violations of other parties.

Yesterday Guzmán questioned the electoral board's new decision, again saying that Kuczynski's PPK party had similar issues, reports El Comercio.

News Briefs
  • The U.S. announced yesterday an easing of travel restrictions to Cuba, which essentially lift the long-standing ban on American tourists visiting the country, reports the Wall Street Journal. The new measures significantly broaden Cuba's access to the global economy and permit Cuban citizens to earn salaries from American companies and to have American bank accounts for limited purposes. The Commerce and Treasury press release has more details on the significant changes announced ahead of President Barack Obama's visit next week. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • A top Brazilian senator has accused President Dilma Rousseff of playing a role in the broad corruption ring at the state-run oil company Petrobras. Senator Delcídio do Amaral's plea-bargain testimony, is the first time she's been implicated in the ever-widening Petrobras graft investigation, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Should former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva join his successor's cabinet he would single-handedly bolster her embattled government and revitalize the party base, and also give him protected status from an ongoing graft inquiry, reports the New York Times. If he gets a cabinet post in President Dilma Rousseff's government, it would come with special judicial standing that would only allow him to be tried by the country's Supreme Court. Discussions between Rousseff and Lula were inconclusive yesterday and resumed early today, reports Reuters. Lula's nomination is not a done deal and could still be derailed, reports the Wall Street Journal. The two leaders have differences on economic policy, a critical area as the government continues to push austerity measures to combat an ongoing recession. (See yesterday's post.)
  • The number of bodies recovered from the mass grave in southeastern Venezuela has risen to 17, reports the Associated Press. Police are investigating the disappearance of 21 miners last week, who family members say were killed by a gang. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The daughter of the recently assassinated Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres said her mother had often spoken of threats against her life. "This struggle was her life project and she faced threats of all kinds that she made us aware of. In 2013, with the construction of the dam, threats increased and then the construction was suspended due to protests. When it was reinstated the threats increased again," she told the Guardian. (See March 4's post.)
  • Argentina's coast guard sank a Chinese trawler fishing illegally in territorial waters. The illegal vessel reportedly tried to ram the coast guard boat. It's the first test of for relations between Argentina and China under the new administration of President Mauricio Macri, reports Reuters.

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