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Fujimori Sets Stage For Political Crisis In Peru

Immediate Release

Friday, May 26, 2000


Two days after a test of the computer vote counting system failed to convince international observers that authorities were capable of staging a fair election, the Peruvian National Election Board (JNE) voted 3-2 yesterday to proceed with this Sunday's balloting. The decision represents a direct challenge from President Alberto Fujimori to the Organization of American States, which is at this moment pulling most of its officials out of the country. The OAS and the rest of the international community must now face the fact that for months they have ignored the real issue in their naïve acceptance of the president's empty promises: namely, that Fujimori will accept nothing less than a rigged game.

OAS Fails to Save Election

The OAS election team in the country, led by former Guatemalan Foreign Minister Eduardo Stein, has not turned in a markedly distinguished performance while going through the rudiments concerning the lack of equitable democratic ground rules that have existed in Peru since Fujimori first took office in 1990. Stein's working assumption appears to have been that Fujimori is a man of goodwill who, once he is made aware of some electoral shortcomings, will move to redress them. In fact, Fujimori is an appalling new-style dictator, who never deigns to conceal his contempt for basic democratic purposes and institutions. Furthermore, it comes as no surprise that Fujimori has decided, as he did in 1992 when he dissolved congress and rewrote the constitution, to tough out international recrimination for a relatively brief period in exchange for five more years of power. Alejandro

In recent days, Fujimori seemed to soften slightly under pressure from Stein's modest request of postponing the election for two weeks. But Toledo, who was almost certainly robbed of an election victory in the April 9 first-round elections, insisted that the delay be at least three weeks, which he felt necessary to scour computer software for bugs and dole out much-needed training to election officials, ensuring the minimum conditions for a fair balloting.

Toledo's refusal to budge on this issue stymied Stein's attempts at negotiating with Fujimori and has provoked worried remarks from the Clinton administration, which fully recognizes that the OAS has its back against the wall. While conceding the week may have saved the two-way race, for Toledo-who was meticulously denied adequate media coverage prior to the first round of voting-it meant the difference between ensuring a clean race or losing again under fixed conditions. Stuck between the intransigence of both Fujimori and Toledo, Stein was left with only one option: pull out of Peru.

Electoral Process a Charade from Beginning to End

Throughout his presidency, Fujimori has steadily tightened his autocratic stranglehold on Peru's institutions, while proving that the threats of the international community are a paper tiger. The first round elections indelibly revealed the inefficacy of the OAS and its observing mission, which gave the green light to Fujimori, despite the severely tilted conditions that were the president's warped idea of a level playing field. Observers from the Carter Center and the National Democratic Institute had made known the various suspect tactics Fujimori employed in order to limit Toledo to a minuscule amount of media coverage. Moreover, in spite of the blatantly despotic methods used by Fujimori to seize control over Peru's electoral institutions throughout the months leading up to the April 9 ballot, Stein's exceedingly modest standards were placated with ease. This took the

Fujimori's cynical insistence on following the constitutional guidelines, which mandate that he hold the elections as scheduled, is a matter of low humor at best. While it may be convenient for him to abide by the law now, it wasn't so a number of months ago when he arranged for three constitutional judges to be summarily fired for daring to rule (consistent with legal precedent) against his ability to run for a third term. Soon after, a new, hand-picked supreme court allowed him to run for re-election. Engineering the mass falsification of signatures to get his name on the ballot was simply a matter of doing business as usual for this experienced draconian.

In light of the fact that Fujimori would have pulled all the strings necessary-fair or foul-to guarantee his re-election, Toledo responded appropriately to the intolerable position in which the president placed him. Although Peruvian citizens are required by law to vote, Toledo has asked his supporters to boycott the election by abstaining, or by writing "No to fraud!" on their ballots. Since there was no chance for Toledo to win on Fujimori's uneven playing field, he was forced to rely on the international community to overcome its predisposition for complacency and to vigorously condemn it as an unmitigated sham not worthy of recognition. While it now appears that the OAS has no other choice but to finally fulfill Toledo's hopes, the move may have come too late. After months of implicitly supporting the incumbent's shabby intentions, the OAS has confirmed the indisputa

Reed Lindsay and Dan Nemser, Research Associates


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