UPDATE: The Lima elections board announced Friday night that it had opened an exclusion proceeding against Keiko Fujimori for vote buying. The board will issue its ruling on whether to bar her from 2016 elections by Thursday.
Peru’s electoral board ruled that presidential frontrunner Keiko Fujimori did not violate law which prohibits vote buying at a break-dancing event in Lima.
Fujimori’s political opponents cried foul when the daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori appeared at a break-dancing competition in Callao whose winners won cash prizes of $89. Peru’s electoral law mandates the disqualification of candidates who give or promise cash or gifts in excess of $6 during the formal election cycle.
“I participated in a K Factor event,” Fujimori said, referring to the hip-hop group which organized the show, “which is an organization apart from out political party. I have never given cash. It is false that I have ever given gifts.”
But opponents point out that K Factor founding member Milton Miranda is a congressional candidate for Fujimori’s Popular Strength party, and the competition was clearly a campaign event. Moreover, Fujimori’s public appearance on stage had the effect of an implicit sponsor of the competition.
“Presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori does not deliver the money directly, but [the delivery] is made by a Popular Strength party member, and that money was provided by a former candidate for the office of Callao regional councilor,” reads the board’s resolution.
The party members involved according to the resolution were Alberto Campujo, a former Popular Strength candidate for councilor in Callao, and Marcos Pichilingüe, the party’s secretary general for Callao.
While seeming to absolve Fujimori of vote buying, the resolution did qualify the competition as a campaign event for the Popular Strength party given its size and the presence of political propaganda. It also highlighted the financial support the party had given K Factor over $5,000 before the beginning of the 2016 election cycle.
The JNE electoral board requested two more days to issue a final ruling.
Peru’s electoral board has already disqualified two presidential candidates and two congressional candidates, which don’t include the entire tickets from some political parties which did not comply with regulations in some states.
Former presidential candidate Julio Guzman, who was in a statistical dead heat in a hypothetical runoff with Fujimori when he was disqualified, is currently appealing to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.
Meanwhile, the electoral board has lost considerable prestige among Peruvians who see the game as rigged. Accusations have flown between parties about each board member’s ties to the various political interests.
“The greater risk is the de-legitimization of the election process,” Harvard political scientist and Peru specialist Steven Levitsky told Poder magazine. “As we know, Peruvians have little trust in their politicians … And if the state bars candidates who have been in strong positions, this will further undermine the confidence people have in the democratic process.”
“We do not know what the precise consequences are, but if public confidence in democracy and its institutions is eroded further, if more people end up concluding that the elections do not matter, it is more likely that some day they will support an authoritarian populist who promises to knock down the existing democracy, in the style of Hugo Chavez.”
Levitsky alleges that the legislation is so difficult that all the political parties are violating the rules. He adds that few democratic countries bar candidates for breaking the rules. Most developed countries fine the candidates or their parties.
JEE de Lima Centro 1 abre proceso de exclusión contra Keiko Fujimori (Radio Nacional)
Keiko: Fiscalización del JNE pide más plazo para informe (El Comercio)
Partido de Julio Guzmán presenta hoy medida cautelar ante la CIDH (Radio Nacional)