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The 2000 national election in Peru was highly controversial and widely considered to have been fraudulent. President Alberto Fujimori won the election and a third term in office. However, the election was tainted with allegations of unconstitutionality, bribery, structural bias, and outright electoral fraud. Alejandro Toledo boycotted the second round of the election, in which an enormous amount of ballots were declared to be invalid. Ultimately, Fujimori called for new elections, fled Peru, and faxed in his resignation from a hotel in Japan.
1 Constitutional issues
2 Structural bias
5 OAS process
The Constitution of Peru specifically limits presidents to two terms, and Fujimori relied on the legally questionable theory that the restriction did not apply to him in 2000 because the Constitution was written after he nullified the previous constitution, at which time he was already in power. The electoral bodies, the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) and National Jury of Elections (Peru) (JNE), were staffed at the time with Fujimori supporters who were considered by many to be corrupt. These bodies accepted Fujimori's argument.
Many observers believed that the government structures were set up in a way that gave Fujimori's re-election bid an unfair advantage. For example, the United States Department of State noted that generals of the Peruvian Army were removed from their positions if anti-Fujimori protests occurred in their jurisdiction, providing the army with an incentive to crack down on anti-government protesters. A cable from the American embassy to Peru noted that "gigantic pro-Fujimori slogans appeared on the sides of hills within some military reservations and bases. Mostly at night but sometimes in broad daylight, troops have been sighted from Tacna to Tumbes painting pro-Fujimori slogans and blacking out the slogans of opposition candidates. Military vehicles have been made available to government candidates to transport supplies and people at no charge" and that "routine public works projects" were arraigned "to maximize electoral impact."
The elections were also marred with accusations of outright fraud. During the campaign, a El Comercio broke a story about a "fábrica de firmas" (signature factory) in which many people worked signing a petition to register a pro-Fujimori political party. Several of the people involved admitted to their part in this scheme. Perhaps most damning, they had copied the signatures of voters from official ONPE voter-registration lists, which were provided to them.
Shortly before the election, several people, including JNE workers, were arrested for their part in the theft of ballots. They were caught with the ballots, many of which had been filled out. The plurality of these ballots was filled out with votes for Fujimori and his electoral allies.
After Fujimori was declared the victor of the first round, Alejandro Toledo called for a boycott of the second round. Fujimori responded by reminding voters that Peruvian law makes voting obligatory, and that anyone boycotting the election could be fined. Toledo then suggested that his supporters to cast spoiled ballots. The result was that while votes for Toledo declined from 40.24% of the valid votes cast in the first round to 25.67% of the valid votes in the second round, invalid votes jumped from 2.25% in of the total votes cast in the first round to 29.93% of total votes in the second round. That such a large percentage of votes were thrown out as invalid shows that many Peruvians took Toledo's advice and deliberately spoiled their ballots.
Following the election the Organization of American States (OAS) established a "mesa" dialogue process (Mesa de Dialogo). The Mesa "filled the institutional vacuum caused by the polarization of political forces in Peru following the May 2000 elections. It became the locus of authoritative decisionmaking power during the final days of the Fujimori government, preparing the way for the Peruvian opposition to win control of the congress and to form an interim government." The dialogue was facilitated by a former foreign minister from the Dominican Republic, Eduardo Latorre, supported by a small OAS secretariat. The Mesa had eighteen participants and "deliberately incorporated three key sets of actors: government ministers, progovernment and opposition members of congress, and civil society representatives."
Alejandro Toledo and his Peru Posible political party were initially reluctant to engage in the Mesa, initially considering the OAS mission an attempt to prop up the Fujimori regime. Not wanting to either engage fully with the OAS mission or be isolated from the Mesa completely, Toledo remained at the edge of the process, allowing others to be directly involved in the negotiations, including Luis Solari. Toledo focussed instead on international media appearances and organising large demonstrations.
In the latter part of 2000 a series of dramatic events brought the dialogue potential of the Mesa into the foreground. On 14 September a videotape was broadcast showing security chief Vladimiro Montesinos bribing opposition congressman Alberto Kouri to join Fujimori's congressional coalition. This prompted Fujimori to announce new elections and dismiss Montesinos. Further shocks followed, with Montesinos appearing in Panama to seek asylum, and then returning to Peru on 23 October, "creating fear of an imminent coup." Finally, on 20 November Fujimori faxed his resignation from Japan.
As these events unfolded, the mesa became increasingly prominent as a parallel congress with de facto political decisionmaking power. In the institutional void created by congressional deadlock and political power struggles, few other nonviolent choices existed. As events during September and October led increasingly to a showdown between Fujimori and Montesinos, the former displayed a greater willingness to agree to political reforms in exchange for support from the OAS and the Peruvian political representatives assembled at the mesa. Despite all of the suspicions harbored by the opposition, the mesa remained a useful fallback option and a buffer against the threat of military disruption."
Candidate Party 1st Round 2nd Round
Alberto Fujimori Perú 2000 5 528 394 6 041 685
Alejandro Toledo Perú Posible 4 460 812 2 086 215
Alberto Andrade Somos Perú 333 049
Federico Salas Avancemos 246 781
Luis Castañeda Lossio Solidaridad Nacional 199 813
Abel Salinas APRA 152 519
Raúl Diez Canseco Acción Popular 46 509
Máximo San Román Unión por el Perú 36 541
Others 80 099
Blank 708 603 140 773
Invalid 271 308 3 531 637
^ 2000 Lima 2169. "The State of the Military on the Eve of Elections." April 7, 2000. Available online. Hosted by the National Security Archive.
^ Conaghan, Catherine M. (2005). Fujimori's Peru: Deception in the Public Sphere. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 180-181.
^ Conaghan, Catherine M. (2005). Fujimori's Peru: Deception in the Public Sphere. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 96.
^ a b c d e f g Andrew F. Cooper, and Thomas Legler (2005), "A Tale of Two Mesas: The OAS Defense of Democracy in Peru and Venezuela," Global Governance 11(4)