Peru: Possible alliances

Max Cameron has an excellent discussion of the alliance possibilities in the Peruvian congress, now that the results are coming into somewhat clearer focus. (Rici has been updating these results in the comments to an earlier post, as well as at Max’s blog.)

It is worth noting here that alliance-building is particularly important in Peru, and not just in the generic sense (present in any presidential system) of needing to form majorities to pass statutes or constitutional amendments needed to implement a separately elected president’s program of policy change. In Peru, the need for alliances goes a step farther: Peru, uniquely in South America, has a semi-presidential system.

In a semi-presidential system, there is a prime minister who heads the cabinet and may be removed by a vote of no-confidence passed by the legislative majority. Peru’s variant also allows the president to fire a prime minister–even against the wishes of the parliamentary coalition (unlike the French or Romanian or Haitian versions, for example). And Peru has several other significant executive powers lodged in the presidency rather than in the cabinet. Nonetheless, the cabinet and its PM are important in Peru, and a president who lacks a reliable alliance in the legislature will find it hard to govern.

Actual votes of no confidence have been relatively rare in Peru. But presidential firing of PMs or reshuffling of cabinets in anticipation of congressional alliances shifting have been very common.

Even Alberto Fujimori built (and later rebuilt) governing alliances after winning the 1990 runoff and facing a divided legislature. The difference with Fujimori is that he was also at the time building an alliance with the military, with whom he overthrew the democratic regime in 1992. Presumably that part of Peruvian history will not repeat itself.

This need for multiparty alliances is one reason why a possible second presidency for Alan García would be quite different from his last, disastrous, turn in power. Then (1985-90) he was the leader of the majority party. Now he would not be. Check out Max’s considerations of how alliances might be built under either Humala or García, and the role that the Fujimorista party (which made a comeback) might play.

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