Peruvian political dynasty crumbles as president dissolves Congress
LIMA, Peru — Nearly three decades after President Alberto Fujimori shut down Congress and the judiciary and assumed full powers, another Peruvian leader has dissolved Congress.
Popular Force, the movement’s party led by the daughter of former President Keiko, had a majority in Congress but now faces an uncertain future. His performance in Congress has angered so many Peruvians that polls show around 85% support President Martín Vizcarra’s decision.
This setback is only the latest for Peru’s main political dynasty. Mr Fujimori, the family patriarch, is behind bars at 81. Keiko Fujimori is also in jail, awaiting trial for alleged illegal party funding.
Ms Fujimori, who has become estranged from her brother Kenji, a former congressman, denies any wrongdoing and says his imprisonment is a political witch hunt.
“Fujimorismo is a zombie. With Congress closed, they are now out of the game,” said Alfredo Torres, head of pollster Ipsos in Peru.
The fracas around Congress is linked to Mr. Vizcarra’s anti-corruption campaign, which many Peruvians and most analysts say has been blocked by the party. Members of Congress and some legal experts, however, say the president’s decision is unconstitutional. Peru’s highest court is expected to rule on the matter in the coming months.
Mr. Vizcarra says he, unlike Mr. Fujimori in 1992, is not consolidating power. He called for new legislative elections on January 26 and pledged not to run in the next presidential race.
The prospects for the January 26 legislative elections, if the court does not overturn Mr. Vizcarra’s decision, look bleak for Popular Force. Mr Torres said the party’s polls were between 15% and 20%, half the support won in the 2016 election.
“They are very discredited due to corruption allegations and the perception that they have obstructed anti-corruption reforms,” he said.
Walter Albán, a political analyst and former interior minister, said he doubted the party would cross 10% in the January poll. “I think this is the beginning of the final chapter of the Fujimori political movement,” he said.
Fujimorismo had been hugely popular among the poor here since Mr. Fujimori, an agronomist and son of Japanese migrants, won the presidency in 1990 with a promise to curb runaway inflation and crush the Maoist terror group Shining Path.
He delivered: Annual inflation fell to 3.7% in 2000 from 7,650% in 1990 and Abimael Guzmán, the leader of the Shining Path, was arrested in 1992 after a conflict that claimed 69,000 lives. His political touch—Mr. Fujimori campaigned while driving a tractor and focused on social programs – cemented his popularity.
Critics say Mr Fujimori has become authoritarian and corrupt. In 2000, after a decade in power, he fled Peru amid a wave of corruption scandals. He was extradited in 2007 and found guilty of murder, kidnapping and human rights violations committed under his government, as well as embezzlement. He is serving a 25-year prison sentence.
After her father’s arrest, Keiko took over the party, finished second in the 2011 presidential vote and was defeated in the 2016 elections by just 40,000 votes out of some 18 million, according to data from the country’s electoral agency. country. Popular Force held 73 of the 130 seats in Congress and became a key power broker.
But Keiko never accepted defeat and focused on boycotting President-elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, said Alberto de Belaunde, a liberal congressman.
“She played her cards wrong,” Mr de Belaunde said.
Ms Fujimori and her brother Kenji have argued over Kenji’s decision to support Mr Kuczynski in several congressional votes in exchange for a formal pardon for the elder Fujimori. Ms. Fujimori disagreed and the party split. Mr Kuczynski granted the pardon, but a corruption scandal eventually forced him to resign and Peru’s Supreme Court overturned the pardon.
Ms Fujimori’s Majority has suspended Kenji Fujimori as a member of Congress as corruption allegations against him are investigated. He effectively gave up politics and would now work as a businessman.
Since 2016, the country has been plagued by a vast corruption scandal linked to the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht SA. Four former presidents have been implicated in alleged bribes from Odebrecht. One of them, Alan García, committed suicide this year. All denied wrongdoing.
Mr. Kuczynski was implicated last year and resigned. His vice president, Mr. Vizcarra, took over, pledging to clean up politics. But Congress has delayed approving its anti-corruption initiatives on campaign finance, immunity and term limits and watered down some of them.
In October 2018, Ms Fujimori was arrested and sent to prison for taking $1.2 million in illegal funds from Odebrecht for her 2011 presidential election campaign. She denies any wrongdoing. Through a spokesperson, Ms. Fujimori declined to be interviewed.
The judiciary was also embroiled in a scandal. Wiretaps ordered by Peru’s prosecutors as part of a drug-trafficking probe showed scores of judges, a Supreme Court justice, the country’s attorney general, lawmakers and businessmen engaging in influence peddling and corruption projects.
Ms Fujimori’s party refused for months to remove the attorney general and, when he finally resigned amid mounting pressure, refused to bring organized crime charges against him. The attorney general has cleared himself of wrongdoing, angering many Peruvians.
Frustrated with the tactics of Ms Fujimori’s party, Mr Vizcarra in July proposed a snap election. But Congress refused and instead prepared to appoint new members to the constitutional court, which is to decide Ms Fujimori’s fate in the coming months. Mr. Vizcarra’s allies feared that Popular Force intended to stack the court, free Ms. Fujimori and block Mr. Vizcarra’s moves.
On September 30, Mr. Vizcarra intervened first and shut down Congress, arguing that his government had lost the confidence of Congress, and called for new legislative elections.
Popular Force officials say the movement will endure as a major force in Peruvian politics.
“These are difficult times for us, but Fujimorismo is so deeply rooted in Peruvian society that it will never go away,” said Rosa Bartra, a leading Popular Force Congresswoman. She said the party supported the fight against corruption, but faced a smear campaign from the radical left.
In Villa El Salvador, a crowded slum of filthy streets and precarious brown-brick houses near Lima that has long been a political stronghold for Ms. Fujimori’s party, the disaffection is palpable.
“The feeling here is that support for Fujimorismo is waning. People feel betrayed,” said Rafael Virhuez, a social activist who works with teenagers in theater activities to keep them away from crime and drugs.
The sprawling slum of 500,000 people 20 miles south of Lima has been loyal to Fujimorismo since the 1990s, when Mr Fujimori sent the army against Shining Path. In the 2016 elections, Ms. Fujimori’s party won 59% of the vote. On a nearby wall, a graffiti reads: “Freedom for Keiko”.
But many say they will no longer support Fujimorismo. “They’ve been an arrogant opposition,” said Diana Flores, a 34-year-old housewife. “We can’t trust them.”
—John Otis contributed to this article.
Write to Juan Montes at email@example.com
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