|ELECTIONS IN PERU|
May 29, 2000
ANNOUNCER: The deep divisions among the voters of Peru exploded last night, as protesters clashed with police throughout the country. The violence came just hours after a presidential election that the demonstrators-- and most outside observers-- deemed illegitimate. The vote was supposed to be a runoff between Alberto Fujimori, the two-term incumbent president, and challenger Alejandro Toledo, a U.S.-trained economist. But two weeks ago, Toledo took himself out of the running. He accused Fujimori of manipulating the news media and using state resources for his own political benefit.
Toledo asked Fujimori to postpone the vote until international observers could clear up lingering questions. But Fujimori rejected that request. Outside observers also questioned if fraud played a role in the elections' outcome. The Organization of American States pulled their election monitors out of Peru last week. The OAS described the Peruvian electoral process as "far from one that could be considered free and fair." Casting his own vote at the polls yesterday, Fujimori showed no signs of giving in to the pressure.
PRESIDENT ALBERTO FUJIMORI, Peru (Translated):I've been informed that the citizens are turning out in huge numbers of vote. I a m sure that this election will open a new road ahead, a new destination and a new future for Peru.
GWEN IFILL: But at Toledo's behest, millions of Peruvians turned in protest votes. Some scribbled the words "no to fraud" on their sheets; others turned in empty ballots. The official tally, with 70% of the votes counted shows Fujimori with 50% of the vote. Toledo, whose name is still on the ballot, garnered 16%. The remaining ballots were either written on and considered spoiled, or blank. Last night, non-candidate Toledo appeared in front of at least 50,000 cheering supporters. He condemned the government's decision Thursday to proceed with the vote.
ALEJANDRO TOLEDO, Former Presidential Candidate (Translated): Three days ago... three days ago, Fujimori's government formally got rid of its mask, and through its national election board, three days ago, he formally killed democracy in Peru.
GWEN IFILL: Earlier today, the State Department issued its own rejection, in a written statement:
"In view of the refusal of the government of Peru to accommodate international observers' complaints regarding lack of time to validate the newly installed vote-counting system, we do not see the election as being valid."
GWEN IFILL: The final vote count may come as early as Wednesday. On that same day, the OAS will hold an emergency meeting, and may consider sanctions against Peru.
GWEN IFILL: For more on the election, we turn to Vladimir Kocerha,
Correspondent for "Gestion," a Peruvian financial newspaper,
and CPN, Peru's second largest radio network; Michael Shifter, Senior
Fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, and an Adjunct Professor of Latin
American Studies at Georgetown University; and Cynthia McClintock, Professor
of Political Science, and Director of the Latin America Studies program
at George Washington University.
CYNTHIA McCLINTOCK, George Washington University: Unfortunately it is not legitimate. The Organization of American States, as we've seen on the program, the Carter Center, National Democratic Institute reports, the Peruvian election monitoring organizations, all have said that these elections are not legitimate. On April 9th, a lot of internal pressure and external pressure was brought to bear so that Fujimori did not declare a first round victory. I think we all would agree around the table that he wanted to declare that victory, but that the internal and external pressure prevented it.
GWEN IFILL: Yeah. Vladimir Kocerha, you saw the protests in the streets, we just saw that, we saw the upheaval. Is this lasting upheaval that we're going to see for a while, or is this just a temporary one?
VLADIMIR KOCERHA, Gestion Newspapers, Peru: Yes, I believe there's going to be a continuous upheaval -- not only what we saw or what happened in Lima last night, but there were about eight other cities in the interior of the country that were also under turmoil. You can expect at certain times, for example, the next week we will see a lot of international pressure, I mean, what the State Department said today, it's very important even it a holiday here in the U.S. -- the State Department also saying the, bringing into question the legitimacy of the Peruvian election, and now both external and internal pressure will have, will probably make Fujimori reconsider.
GWEN IFILL: This of course all speaks to the pressure that's being put on Alberto Fujimori. Has he overstepped in this case, is he paying any price for this? How does this lay down?
MICHAEL SHIFTER, Inter-American Dialogue: Well, I think his calculation was that basically he could ride this out, that the domestic protests would sort of die down, international pressure, there would be an uproar the first few days but that would calm down, and people would focus their attention on other crisis spots in Latin America.
GWEN IFILL: Who's to say he's not right? It's still just the first few days.
MICHAEL SHIFTER: Well, I think it remains to be seen. I think it's a major test, particularly for the international community, whether the countries in this hemisphere are serious about their commitment to defending democracy. This was a violation of the electoral process, which is something all the countries are committed to. And in a few days we'll see whether other countries respond appropriately saying this is something that is unacceptable and insist that there be a procedure be in place so that free and fair elections can take place in Peru.
GWEN IFILL: So, Professor McClintock, say the international community condemns the current president. What effect does that have?
CYNTHIA McCLINTOCK: It isolates President Fujimori and his government severely. It isolates them in the sense of the possibility of suspension of economic aid, the suspension of military aid, it will frighten away private investors. And there remains the possibility of general, just generally negative relationship.
GWEN IFILL: Well, what about Alejandro Toledo, is he the legitimate leader of a new movement, or is this a temporary upheaval?
VLADIMIR KOCERHA: Well, the first round proved he was the best choice among the other candidates, there were nine candidates running including President Fujimori. And Toledo managed to capitalize all the companies content against President Fujimori. Now he has, he is being proven on a daily basis now on whether he can still go ahead and manage to become the real leader of the opposition. I think he has shown so far that, yes, he is somebody who is showing a lot of character, and now he has to go ahead and convince an international community that he can become the next president of Peru.
GWEN IFILL: Well, is this an anti-Fujimori vote, or a pro Toledo vote?
VLADIMIR KOCERHA: In the second round I would say it was... He managed to convince both the people who vote no to fraud and the people who voted for him, that yes he is, the vote was pro Toledo.
GWEN IFILL: He is the standard the bearer no matter what the outcome is.
VLADIMIR KOCERHA: Yes.
GWEN IFILL: What does this mean about democracy and Peru, Michael Shifter, is Peru still a real democracy?
MICHAEL SHIFTER: It very questionable. I think Fujimori's running for a third term was constitutionally questioned. There was a court that ruled in 1997 that he couldn't run, had dismissed the judges who ruled that. So these are clear violations of things that really make up a democracy. I think there's tremendous uncertainty, there's a lot of tension, the situation is very precarious, and I think it calls into serious question whether we can really call Peru a democracy. If we have this category of those that are elected to government, then we have Cuba that's not elected. I think Peru is fairly close to the Cuba model rather than the other countries.
GWEN IFILL: In what way? Cuba is obviously a communist model.
MICHAEL SHIFTER: Well, there's control of the press, the Organization of American states put out a report recently that was severe in its criticism of the manipulation of the control of the press, control of the judicial system, the electoral process. That really shows that there's something sinister going on in this government, even though Fujimori has some popular support, clearly, even though he has some legitimacy, he won the previous two elections. But still, he does not respect the rules of the game. There are no checks and balances, and this is far from a model of representative democracy.
GWEN IFILL: Is Fujimori put out off by this notion of international condemnation, or does he just want to ride it out?
CYNTHIA McCLINTOCK: He thinks he can ride it out, but I believe he's miscalculated N. The past he's calculated very closely, carefully and he's been right. But over the years I believe that his successes have gone to his head and that he is no longer in touch with the intensity of opposition, both at home and abroad. And I believe that there is going to be more severe reactions than he anticipated. I think that the United States statement today, as Vladimir was saying, was very important. Up until today, the Clinton administration has been tepid in its warnings to President Fujimori.
GWEN IFILL: Too tepid?
CYNTHIA McCLINTOCK: Yes, too tepid. Many of the statements have been vague. They have been statements to the effect that the relationship with Peru will be, quote, modified, or revised. I think that authoritarian leaders like President Fujimori need to be told very they're cloudy, very specifically about the possible repercussions of their actions. We've seen video of President Fujimori saying there won't be a problem. I think that there need to be public statements indicating clearly that yes there will be problems.
GWEN IFILL: Can an authoritarian leader survive in a nation that is trying to be a democracy?
VLADIMIR KOCERHA: Well, the problem here is the lack of institutions. Peru, it's a new democracy, democracy is trying to, is struggling. And during the 60's and 70's we had the military government. In 1980 the newly elected democratic government tried to change the system, and then begin the institutional building process, which lasted for about ten days. President Fujimori has managed to destroy whatever little institutions we had in Peru, and that's the reason why he is managing to control as much, as Michael said. I mean, the judiciary, the legislative branches of government, those are being controlled directly by the executive. And can democracy survive, well, it's a process that we will have to change from this authoritarian style of government, to something in which every democratic participant would like to help and build the institution that would lead Peru out of this crisis.
GWEN IFILL: Do you, Michael Shifter, agree with Cynthia McClintock, that the problem here is that the United States steps in too late, that they should have been firmer early on?
MICHAEL SHIFTER: I agree that it's important for the United States to take an important stand. I think that the organization of American states in this case, the OAS, was unprecedented. This is a very cautious conservative organization that's monitored elections all over Latin America. This is the first time in anybody's memory that they've come out with something so strong, so strong a statement. I think the United States, on the one hand, it's important to be firm, on the other hand they do have to be sensitive to other countries and see whether the United States stands alone or whether the Brazils and Mexicos and other major nations in this hemisphere are also along. So I think there's a more complicated challenge there.
GWEN IFILL: When does the United States begin to run the risk of impinging on another country's sovereignty?
MICHAEL SHIFTER: Well, I do think that's an issue, and there is sensitivity to that. We have to remember other Latin American countries, the Pinochet case in Chile, and so forth there is a possible reaction to meddling. But Peruvians are on report as supporting democracy and supporting elections. They've committed themselves to those standards and they're not adhering to those standards, so they have to be called in to account. I think that is the responsibility and the obligation of the hemispheric community. The Peruvians said we believe in elections, and yet they haven't had a legitimate process.
GWEN IFILL: If the U.S. is supposed to take affirmative role, in your opinion, what role should that be? Should it be through Congress, should it be through the Clinton administration? What can happen now?
CYNTHIA McCLINTOCK: I agree with what Michael said, and I think it's important that the United States work very closely with the Organization of American States. Right now the question is whether or not the Santiago resolution, Resolution 1080 of the Organization of American States, which calls for the foreign ministers to assemble and take a decision about what to do, whether that resolution will be invoked. The United States is working with allies in the region to assure that will happen. I believe it will happen. And then the question will be, what kind of negotiations can take place, how can the United States working with the Organization of American States convince President Fujimori that it really is time for him to respect the constitution of Peru that only gave him two consecutive terms?
GWEN IFILL: Have you been reading any of the tea leaves on capitol hill in the sense that there is any concern there?
VLADIMIR KOCERHA: That's a very interesting thing, because President Fujimori, Peru has been one of the few countries which has managed to unite both Democrats and Republicans against him. And there has been a recent joint resolution, approved by both Houses of Congress and then signed into law by President Clinton. Maybe not too many Americans know about it. But it's Resolution 43, which warns Peru before the elections that if the elections are not deemed free and fair, that the U.S. Government will change, will modify its relationships with Peru in a political, economic and military spheres, and even with those warnings, President Fujimori went ahead and did what he did.
GWEN IFILL: One final thought. Michael Shifter, what has to happen next, if democracy in its true us form, at least what Americans view to be the truest form, to return to Peru?
MICHAEL SHIFTER: Well, I think there has to be a very strong reaction in the international community. The OAS on Wednesday will be very revealing, foreign ministers meet in Canada for the general assembly meeting of the OAS next Sunday. I think a very strong message has to be sent. Resolution 1080, this did interrupt the constitutional democratic process in Peru. And we remember the bad old days of military governments, we don't want to go back to that. We but most important, democratic governments also have to behave more responsibly, there has to be better leadership, and we have to satisfy what citizens are demanding throughout the hemisphere.
GWEN IFILL: Thank you all three very much.