Corruption as political ideology

Latinamerica Press

Public shows increased lack of confidence in politics after regional and local elections.

The results of Peru´s regional and municipal elections on Oct. 5 were no surprise. National political parties continue on their route to disappearance, and corruption has infiltrated politics.

The country´s 20.6 million voters chose from 106,058 names representing 475 political organizations. The candidates competed for leadership positions in 25 regional governments, 195 provinces, and 1,843 districts. What is clear following these elections, says analyst Fernando Tuesta, is that “political party fragmentation has increased.”

Since 1990, traditional parties like Acción Popular, Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA) or Partido Aprista, Partido Popular Cristiano and Izquierda Unida have lost ground to so-called “emerging parties,” which Tuesta called “political organizations without ideological anchors, with little organizational structure and highly personalized, that register as national parties, win presidential or parliamentary elections, but have little to no sub-national reach.”

“The main feature of these organizations is their personalist and endogamous development,” Tuesta writes in his blog, Politika, published by the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP). Moreover, national parties have been displaced by regional organizations that are not linked to each other, and that are only in power for one term. Examples are Alianza Renace Ayacucho, Puro Ancash, Kausachun Cusco, or Pasco Verde, with campaign promises focused on demands.

Candidates from political parties won only six regional government seats, while regional organizations claimed victories in the remaining 19.“That high turnover, dispersion and lack of partisan attachments make presidents [of regional governments] who are chosen from regional organizations a box full of surprises,” says Tuesta. Without the ideological commitment, “most follow the path of pragmatism,” he added.

What ensues is that highly questionable candidates are chosen. According to website Útero.pe, 1,395 candidates this year have been convicted of criminal or civil offenses, including seven found guilty of homicide, 13 of drug trafficking, and five of terrorism. And the Public Prosecutor´s Office says 127 candidates were under investigation for money laundering.

The civil association Transparencia that works on democratic consolidation, released a statement on Oct. 6 criticizing extensive candidate lists like in the most recent elections, on the grounds that they “impede the consolidation of a stable and representative party system [and] hamper campaign finance auditing tasked to the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE).”

“Steals but does public works”
Corruption was a recurring theme throughout this electoral campaign season. A poll in late September by Ipsos Perú showed that 59 percent of respondents would vote for a mayor who “steals but does public work,” indicating a high tolerance among the Peruvian electorate for embezzlement.

The most emblematic case of this kind of municipal authorities is Luis Castañeda Lossio, who was elected mayor of Lima with over 50 percent of the vote despite the serious allegations of corruption against him during his previous administrations in the Municipality of Lima between 2002 and 2010. An example is the so-called “Comunicore case” involving the purchase of a debt of US$13 million the Municipality of Lima had, by a company related to drug trafficking. A Datum poll revealed that 49 percent of respondents believed that Castañeda would steal but will do more public works.

Transparencia called attention to the fact that, according to ONPE investigations, only one-third of political organizations report campaign spending within the allotted time. In a context of organized crime, especially as drug trafficking and illegal mining are pushing their way into politics, control of campaign finances becomes much more important.

Since current laws do not ban candidates who have committed acts of corruption, drug trafficking, terrorism, or rape, from entering public office, Transparencia recommends that the bar to participate in elections be raised. “We have to open the debate to establish restrictions or barriers to those who committed crimes of corruption, drug trafficking, terrorism and rape, and for those who refuse to comply with child support or owe civil penalties for the commission of any crime.”

“The participation of candidates who have been sentenced or convicted for particularly serious crimes increases public mistrust in politics and affects the quality of democratic representation,” the statement added.

Transparencia called for immediate changes to the current Political Parties Law to include requirements and incentives so that political groups, in order to recuperate their representativeness,