STATEMENT OF THE FIRST NDI/CARTER CENTER
This statement is offered by an international pre-election delegation to Peru, organized jointly by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and The Carter Center. The delegation visited Peru from November 28 through December 3, 1999. This is the first in a planned series of three NDI/Carter Center delegations that will observe the pre-election period. In addition, The Carter Center and NDI will establish a continuous presence in Peru from January until after the elections in April 2000, in order to more fully assess the entire electoral process.
NDI and The Carter Center are independent, nongovernmental organizations that have established reputations for objectivity, impartiality and professionalism through numerous international election observation programs in the Americas and around the globe. The purposes of this delegation were to express the support of the international community for a democratic election process in Peru, to assess the evolving political environment surrounding the upcoming elections, as well as the state of electoral preparations, and to offer an accurate and impartial statement of its observations. The delegation conducted its activities according to international standards for nonpartisan international election observation and Peruvian law. NDI and The Carter Center do not seek to interfere in the election process or, at this juncture, to make a final assessment about the process. Both institutions recognize that, ultimately, it will be the people of Peru who will determine the legitimacy of the elections and of the resulting government.
SUMMARY OF OBSERVATIONS
The delegation noted that political parties and candidates for President and Congress are actively organizing in the period before the opening of the official campaign, notwithstanding their complaints about the nature of the process. Peru's three electoral bodies are moving forward with electoral preparations in order to complete their tasks in time for the April 9 election date. Credible nonpartisan election observation efforts by a number of civil society organizations are underway, building upon the mobilization by Transparencia of approximately 9,000 observers for the 1995 elections and its observation of the 1998 municipal elections. The Ombudsman's Office is also playing a positive role complementing the domestic monitoring efforts. Transparencia and the newspaper El Comercio have entered into an agreement with RENIEC, the electoral body that is responsible for the voter registry, to monitor the registry, which should help build confidence in that part of the election process.
The delegation noted controversy over problems in the legal framework that affect the electoral environment, including the issue of the constitutional interpretation about provisions on standing for re-election. The delegation also noted reports of violations of press freedoms, problems in access to the media, use of state resources to gain electoral advantage, fear of pressure from state agencies or other retribution for criticizing the government and potentially insufficient funding for electoral bodies. Even though voter turnout has increased in recent elections, opinion surveys indicate declining public confidence in the electoral process. In addition, opposition leaders expressed to the delegation strong convictions that their decisions to participate in the elections should not be interpreted as their accepting the process as fair or legitimate, especially with respect to the possible candidacy of the incumbent president for another term of office. These factors give rise to very serious concerns for the delegation. It is the delegation's opinion that the pre-election environment is marked by serious flaws, and that the problems noted must be addressed by concerted and sustained efforts in the period ahead to make it possible for the electoral process to meet international standards for genuine democratic elections.
II. THE DELEGATION AND ITS WORK
This pre-election delegation included election experts and political and civic leaders from four countries. Delegation members have participated in numerous election assessments and international election observer delegations. The delegation was composed of: His Excellency Luis Alberto Lacalle, former President of Uruguay; Dr. Guillermo Marquez Amado, former President of the Electoral Tribunal of Panama; Dr. Charles Costello, Director of Democracy Programs at The Carter Center; Hon. Gerardo Le Chevallier, Director of Latin American and the Carribean Programs at NDI and former Member of the Parliament of El Salvador; Dr. Jennifer McCoy, Director of Latin American and Carribean Programs at The Carter Center; and Dr. Patrick Merloe, Senior Associate and Director of Programs on Election and Political Processes at NDI. The delegation was joined by NDI Program Officer Linda Frey.
The delegation was invited by the Government of Peru, as well as by Peruvian political and civic leaders. Delegation members met with a cross-section of Peruvian political leaders, election officials, journalists and representatives of nonpartisan election monitoring organizations, including: President Alberto Fujimori; leaders of political parties and movements from across the Peruvian political spectrum, including Accion Popular, Cambio 90/Nueva Mayoria, Izquierda Unida, Partido Aprista Peruano, Partido Popular Cristiano, Peru Posible, Solidaridad Nacional, Somos Peru, and Union por el Peru; presidential candidates, including Alberto Andrade and Alejandro Toledo; First Vice President of the Congress Ricardo Marcenaro Frers; President of the Constitutional Commission of Congress Carlos Torres y Torres Lara; President of the Supreme Court Victor Raul Castillo and members of the Executive Commission of the Judicial Power; representatives of the three electoral authorities, the Jurado Nacional de Eleciones (National Election Tribunal - JNE), Oficina Nacional de Procesos Electorales (National Office for Electoral Processes - ONPE) and Registro Nacional de Identificacion y Estado Civil (National Registry of Identification and Civil State - RENIEC); Defensoria del Pueblo (Ombudsman's Office); members of the news media, the private sector and academia; human rights organizations and nonpartisan election monitoring organizations, Transparencia (Transparency), Foro Democratico (Democratic Forum), Consejo por la Paz (Council for the Peace), Servicios Educativos Rurales (Rural Education Services) and Coordinadora de los Derechos Humanos (Coordinator for Human Rights).
III. ELECTORAL CONTEXT
An accurate and complete assessment of any election must take into account all aspects of the electoral process. These include: 1) conditions set up by the legal framework for the elections; 2) the pre-election period before and during the campaign; 3) the voting process; 4) the counting process; 5) the tabulation of results; 6) the investigation and resolution of complaints; and 7) the conditions surrounding the formation of a new government. This delegation therefore does not pre-judge the overall process. At the same time, no election can be viewed in isolation of the political context in which it takes place. The pre-election period, including electoral preparations and the political environment, must be given considerable weight when evaluating the democratic nature of elections.
International Standards and Best Practices
In addition, the electorate must be free and able to receive adequate and accurate information upon which to make an informed political choice and be free to exercise that choice without fear, intimidation or bribery. Also, the machinery of the state must remain neutral and its resources must be used for the benefit of the electorate, rather than for the benefit or detriment of any of the political contestants. No electoral process is perfect, but the degree to which it falls short of these standards will determine whether or not the elections are truly democratic. Genuine democratic elections also require that the public, including the political contestants (parties and candidates), have confidence that the results of the election will reflect accurately the free choice of the voters and that the outcome will be respected. International experience demonstrates that extraordinary steps by a government are often needed to establish confidence in the genuineness of the country's political and electoral processes. Governments in these circumstances must go beyond minimum requirements for democratic elections. This lesson appears to be clearly applicable in Peru.
Since that time, developments in the legislative and judicial branches have undermined confidence in electoral and political processes. Many of those with whom the delegation met expressed the view that these problems are related to the re-election issue. The Fujimori administration has had successes, including in economic and security matters, and all municipalities now have functioning elected authorities. The successes of the administration, however, could be lost if the problems noted are not effectively addressed. The upcoming elections present an opportunity to take a positive step in democratic development.
Issues in the Legal Framework that Affect the Electoral Environment
Violations of Press Freedoms
A significant number of the Peruvian journalists with whom the delegation met alleged violations of press freedoms, including threats, public defamation, harassment, use of tax investigations and criminal investigations to pressure the press. Violations of freedom of the press in Peru have been denounced by respected nongovernmental organizations, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Freedom House and by the Organization of American States Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. Attacks on press freedom create a chilling effect that can block the media from performing their normal role as watchdogs over the integrity of election and other important governmental processes that can be important in the political choice made by voters.
Other concerns presented to the delegation by credible media sources included the potential effects of media outlets deciding not to criticize the government due to the case of Baruch Ivcher, whose Peruvian nationality was removed and who lost ownership of television Channel 2 following reporting that was critical of the government. Arrest warrants on other charges were issued for Ivcher's wife and two daughters. Julio Sotelo, former manager of Channel 2, was sentenced to four years in jail for falsifying a business document in the attempted transfer. While the delegation could not examine the details of the charges and countercharges in the Ivcher case, it was a major instance cited as a cause for fear among the press of retribution for publishing stories that are critical of the government. This case, along with other incidents and declarations about the large degree to which the media outlets depend on government advertising for revenues, was cited to the delegation as reason for concern that the media may be practicing self-censorship in a way that would give electoral advantage to those associated with the government.
In addition, the delegation received serious allegations from media representatives that intelligence services produce and finance some of the material printed in the so-called prensa chicha (tabloids), defaming political candidates and journalists. These allegations pointed to use of almost identical language appearing in headlines on the same day in these newspapers. Such charges, whether or not true, illustrate the potential for self-censorship.
Problems with Access to the Media and Balanced Media Coverage
Use of State Resources
Electoral Registry and Confidence in Electoral Institutions
Nonpartisan Domestic Election Observation
In the spirit of international cooperation, the delegation offers the following recommendations. It is the delegation's hope that the recommendations may help those working to advance the prospects for a successful election process.
One of the most important observations made by the delegation concerned the need for institutionalization of the democratic process in Peru. This is a challenge to government and opposition alike. The responsibility also applies to civic leaders and those from the private sector. Peru has a critical role to play in the hemisphere, and the upcoming elections provide an opportunity for the country to assume a leadership role in the democratization process. The Carter Center and NDI will continue to observe the process and are prepared to assist in any way possible those working to advance democracy in Peru.
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