Friday, January 24, 2020

Peruvian voters apathetic ahead of Sunday election (Jan 24, 2020)

Peruvian voters head to the polls on Sunday, in extraordinary legislative elections called after President Martín Vizcarra dissolved Congress last year, when lawmakers repeatedly refused to move forward with anti-corruption reforms. The entire 130 unicameral congress will be renewed on Sunday, and the elected lawmakers will serve for 18 months, until the current legislative term runs out in July 2021. Vizcarra is expected to forge a working relationship with the new congress in order to pass his signature anti-corruption reforms ahead of a general election set for April 2021.

Neither the lawmakers who were thrown out in September nor those who win on Sunday may run for reelection in 2021. Because of this, only 16 lawmakers are seeking re-election this time. Some experts say the extraordinary congress will be an opportunity for new centrist parties like Julio Guzmán’s Partido Morado and rebranded establishment parties such as Acción Popular to become relevant players. (AS/COA)

The main opposition party, Fuerza Popular, is set to be the major loser on Sunday, polls suggest it could lose dozens of seats -- up to 30 percent of the 73 seats it currently holds, reports AFP. Nonetheless, it is expected to win the second largest number of votes behind the centrist Acción Popular party. 

Gender and sexual diversity featured prominently in the campaign, but were overshadowed by scandals involving domestic violence and marital infidelity that have particularly tainted Vizcarra's closest ideological supporters, reports the Guardian.

But though citizens strongly backed Vizcarra's move against Congress last September, they are apathetic about the upcoming vote, reports the Washington Post.

Indeed, polls suggest that over 40 percent of voters (participation is compulsory) plan to vote blank or spoil their ballot. The result will likely be a split congress with no majority and little legitimacy, warns the Wapo. Though voters are expected to prefer centrist parties, many choose their party at the last minute, and Peru's controversial electoral list system redistributes ballots from parties that receive less than 5 percent of the vote to larger parties.

The fragmented political party scene -- 21 parties, none of which are polling in the double digits -- means "more than a quarter of voters are likely to vote for a party that does not reach the 5 percent threshold to receive seats," according to the Latin America Risk Report. Combined with the blank and spoiled ballots, "more than half of Peruvians will not have a representative who they voted for in the Congress. That is a problem for Peruvian democracy moving forward," wrote James Bosworth earlier this week.

The focus on gender issues is unprecedented: several candidates have described Peru’s increasing femicide figures as a humanitarian crisis. But it is perhaps matched by a strengthening of opposing views. “This is not only the campaign with most openly LGBT candidates but it’s also the campaign with the most candidates linked to evangelist churches with an anti-rights discourse,” Alberto De Belaunde, an openly gay lawmaker who is a candidate told the Guardian.

Full election coverage at Nodal.amEl Comercio and La República.

News Briefs

  • Mexican National Guard troops detained 800 Central American migrants near the town of Frontera Hidalgo, after they crossed into the country from Guatemala earlier in the day. Many of the people allowed themselves to be escorted to 20 waiting buses without resistance, but some resisted and were subdued by security forces, reports the Associated Press. Troops used shields and pepper spray to corral the caravan, reports Al Jazeera. The group had sought permission to pass through Mexico on the way to the United States, but became the latest example of Mexico's crackdown on irregular migration. (Wires)
  • "Violence" and "poverty," used to explain why thousands of people choose to flee their homes in Central America, barely scratch the surface of "of why people choose to hitchhike for thousands of miles and face an uncertain future at the U.S.-Mexico border," writes Melissa Vida in Global Voices. In Honduras the deeper causes include rampant government corruption and collusion with organized crime, a climate crisis that is compounding health and economic problems, and an ineffective education system.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been curiously callous about the suffering of migrants and violence victims writes León Krauze in the Washington Post. The reason behind his attitude is the politics of power, argues Krauze.
  • Mexican environmental activist Homero Gómez González disappeared last week, and many believe he was kidnapped by illegal loggers, reports the Washington Post.
  • Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó spoke at the World Economic Forum yesterday, and urged the world not to turn its back on his struggling country and the millions of people who have fled across its borders to escape poverty and political turbulence, reports the Guardian. He called for increased sanctions against the Maduro government.
  • A year after Guaidó launched his initial challenge against the Maduro government, his main mistake has been over-alignment with the United States, WOLA expert David Smilde said in an interview with Efecto Cocuyo's Luz Mely Reyes. Guaidó's support for sanctions strengthened Maduro's hand, and Guaidó's withdrawal from Norway mediated negotiations also backfired, said Smilde.
  • Nicolás Maduro suggested the United Nations name a commission of observers for parliamentary elections that will be held later this year. (Anadolu)
  • A reported meeting between Venezuelan vice president Delcy Rodríguez and a key Spanish cabinet member triggered a political storm, yesterday, according to the Associated Press. Rodríguez s on a European Union sanction list barred from entering the territory of any of the bloc’s members, but apparently met with Spanish transportation minister José Luis Ábalos on the tarmac of Madrid’s international airport, while en route to Istanbul. 
  • Uruguayan president-elect Luis Lacalle Pou said his administration will not recognize Guaidó as Venezuela's legitimate leader, but will support him in his role as president of the country's National Assembly, the "only legitimate power." (El EspectadorTal Cual)
  • Haiti must set a firm date for the next round of elections, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told the Miami Herald. His statement comes as Haitian President Jovenel Moïse seeks to reform the country's constitution by executive order, a move critics fear could prolong Haiti's political crisis.
  • Cuba’s state television showed documentary footage of four people arrested as alleged members of the ‘Clandestinos’ dissident group, which is accused of pouring pig’s blood on José Martí sculptures since the start of the year -- Miami Herald

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...


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