Wednesday, January 8, 2014

VOXXI: Politics in Peru and the Twitterverse

Politics in Peru and the Twitterverse
W. Alejandro Sanchez
January 7, 2014
Originally published:

Twitter has become an increasingly popular tool for policymakers, including heads of state, to communicate with their citizens. However, while some presidential Twitter accounts are used to report a government’s accomplishments and give non-controversial statements, other senior policymakers are tweeting confrontational messages. Peru’s former president Alan Garcia Perez (1985 – 1990 and 2006 – 2011) is an example of this development.

Presidential spouses?

First of all, it is important to explain that article 112 of the constitution of this South American nation does not allow for direct presidential re-election. Hence, current President Ollanta Humala (2011 – 2016) is not allowed to run for a new presidential term in 2016 and will have to wait until the 2021 elections at the earliest to seek re-election.
An additional clarification regarding Peru’s electoral system is also necessary. The Peruvian constitution does not prohibit the country’s First Lady from running for the presidency.
On the other hand, article 107 of the electoral law by Peru’s electoral agency (the ONPE), prohibits relatives of government officials (such as spouses) from being candidates.
In mid-2012, an ONPE official proposed a modification to ONPE’s law (not the constitution) that would allow the First Lady to run, but this proposal was withdrawn in January 2013.
The lack of harmony between the constitution and the electoral agency has created a heated debate, which the opposition parties have capitalized upon to aggressively critique the presidential couple.
Namely, there has been widespread speculation that Ollanta’s wife, First Lady Nadine Heredia, will ultimately run in 2016, creating some sort of presidential continuation via a spouse in the Andean state (akin to the Kirchners in Argentina).
For her part, First Lady Heredia has repeatedly denied that she will run in 2016, and the electoral law (not the constitution) also states that she cannot. Nevertheless, a development that supports the belief that she will in fact be a candidate occurred in late December of 2013, when Heredia was named the new leader of her husband’s political party, the Nationalist Peruvian Party (Partido Nacionalista Peruano).

Tweeting criticism

By now there is already an idea of who the major candidates will be in 2016. Given that there is no limit on the number of times a former head of state can run for re-election in Peru, former president Alejandro Toledo (2001 – 2006) declared in September that he intends to run. Likewise, the aforementioned Garcia Perez is also expected to run for a third presidential term, and true to the essence of politics, accusations of foul play have already emerged.
Namely, Garcia Perez tweeted on January 4 “The President-candidate [Heredia] has decreed that I should be prohibited [from running in 2016]. Press, universities, elections. The plan goes on.”
The “president-candidate” label is an insult to President Ollanta, as it has been argued by opposition parties that, even though Ollanta is the head of state, it is his wife, First Lady Heredia, who actually governs the country. In fact, in a June 2013 poll, 40% of respondents said that they believed Heredia rules Peru.
As for the “candidate” part of the tweet, this refers to the aforementioned assumption that Heredia will run in 2016, in spite of declarations to the contrary. Finally, “the plan goes on,” refers to allegations that the presidential couple are cracking down on Peruvian opposition parties and individuals, as well as censoring the Peruvian media, in order to perpetuate themselves in power.
Moreover, it is not solely Garcia Perez who is tweeting this type of accusations. Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) and who lost to Ollanta in the 2011 elections, has also turned to social media to critique the Peruvian leader.
On December 30, Fujimori’s daughter tweeted “President Humala says farewell to 2013 turning away from citizen security and freedom of the press.” The same day, she also tweeted a “request” to the president to not turn Peru into Venezuela (regarded as an autocratic government).
At the time of this writing, Heredia has not utilized her Twitter account to respond to either Garcia Perez or Keiko Fujimori. Nevertheless, on November 27 the Peruvian First Lady tweeted that “la lacra” (loosely translated from Spanish as “the filth”) has infiltrated Peruvian governmental institutions since the 1990s. This was a direct message to Keiko Fujimori’s father, Alberto Fujimori, whose regime was known for its corruption and the manipulation of the Peruvian media, among other crimes.

Dirty politics and Twitter

As 2016 approaches, more candidates will appear who aspire to become the head of state of this Andean nation, which currently enjoys a booming economy. Hopefully the situation regarding the First Lady’s eligibility, or lack thereof, to run for the presidency will clear up as well.
Ultimately, it is a tragic but true to form of most countries’ political systems, accusations of foul play will likely continue as well, not just via speeches at rallies and television interviews, but also increasingly via social media.
Twitter, perhaps more than other social media outlets, has truly become a political tool.

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