President Alan García, in office for a second time after serving as the nation’s leader from 1985 to 1990, has continued to develop the political and economic policies of his predecessor Alejandro Toledo. The result has been a bursting economy and a relatively conservative but democratic and stable political atmosphere. This is quite a contrast to the authoritarian years of the Fujimori regime, 1990–2000.
Fujimori dissolved Peru’s bicameral legislative system during his autogolpe in April 1992 and launched a new constitution with a single congress with 120 seats. Fujimori’s new constitution allowed the president to run for two consecutive terms, a law that was changed after he resigned. In the current system, the president appoints a council of ministers, which is presided over by the prime minister. Apart from the president, Peruvian voters also elect two vice presidents. Voting is compulsory between the ages of 18 and 70, and those who do not vote can be fined. Members of the military were not allowed to vote in the past, but now they can.
The weak point of Peru’s democracy is its judicial branch, which is rife with corruption. It is still common to read in the media about scandals involving judges who have been bribed to free prisoners or make a favorable ruling. The country’s top courts include a 16-member supreme court and a constitutional tribunal. Each of Peru’s regions also has a superior court that serves as a court of appeals for the lower courts. There is a huge backlog of cases in the Peruvian court system, and temporary courts have been set up.
During the Fujimori government, terrorist suspects were tried in secret military courts, in order to protect judges from reprisals. Under such system, many were sent to jail with unfair trials. Under Toledo’s government, some of these suspects have received new trials in civilian courts. The judicial branch is also currently prosecuting those accused of corruption under the Fujimori government.
Nevertheless, the current administration controlled by the APRA party has also been under the spotlight due to cases of corruption within the government agencies. Additionally, people have accused García of shifting from his center-left ideological position to becoming a “neoliberal.” The next presidential elections will take place in 2011.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition