Some thoughts on Peru’s midterm election

After the Constitutional Tribunal ruled them legal, Peru held extraordinary legislative elections on 26 January. President Vizcarra dissolved Congress on the grounds that Congress had voted no-confidence in his cabinet (although not directly) twice. This was the first use of this provision since Peru’s 1992 constitution was promulgated, and as such it was the first time when legislative and presidential elections were not held concurrently.

However, the election did not merely lack a presidential contest. Almost uniquely, President Vizcarra, despite having been elected as part of former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s party (previously Peruanos por el Kambio, now Contigo), chose not to endorse any party for the elections, merely advising voters to inform themselves. This reluctance was seemingly not due to any concern that Vizcarra’s endorsement would be a weakness for any party: at the time of the election, his approval rating stood at 58%.

Peru’s unicameral Congress is elected using open party-list proportional representation in 26 regions, with a 5% threshold applied at the nationwide level. The average district magnitude of 5 makes this a relatively moderate form of proportional representation, which explains why Keiko Fujimori’s Fuerza Popular was able to win a comfortable majority of 56% of the seats in Congress at the 2016 election despite only winning 36% of the vote.

The results of this election, however, were extraordinarily fragmented. The largest party, Accion Popular, got only 10% of the vote, and nine parties made it above the 5% threshold to enter Congress. More than a quarter of votes went to parties below the threshold, and in four provinces the leading party will receive no representation in Congress.

I will leave it to Peruvian experts, which I most certainly am not, to discuss what this result means for Vizcarra’s ability to pass his agenda. However, the results are interesting for other reasons.

Since the promulgation of the 1992 Constitution, Peru’s party system has remained quite stable (at least in terms of numbers, the identity of the parties has changed quite a lot). It has also remained quite close to the number of parties that the Seat Product Model (Shugart and Taagepera, 2017) would predict.

These elections are thus extremely unusual, and are perhaps indicative of the high importance of presidential elections and presidential endorsements in imposing structure on legislative elections in presidential countries. A fact particularly suggestive of this is the disastrous result for the two leading parties in 2016, both of which were affiliated to presidential candidates. Keiko Fujimori’s Fuerza Popular fell from 36% of the vote and 78 seats to 7% and 15 seats, while Peruvanos por el Kambio/Contigo fell from 16% and 18 seats to 1% and no seats.

Peru’s narrow presidential win–and unusual divided government

In Peru, narrow loser Keiko Fujimori has now conceded defeat to Pedro Pablo Kaczynski (PPK) in the presidential run-off. The final result is 50.12% to 49.9%. This is right up there with some of the slimmest margins in the annals of presidential elections. It does not quite beat Taiwan, 2004, however (50.11-49.89).*

Of particular interest is that this election results in divided government, defined as a single-party majority in the assembly opposed to the president. That majority is itself unusual, as it was based on just 37.8% of the vote. Fujimori’s party, Fuerza Popular (FP), won 73 seats out of 130 (56.5%), for an advantage ratio of 1.49. That is staggeringly high for a “proportional” system. Peru uses D’Hondt divisors. The mean district magnitude is around 5. Ordinarily, even D’Hondt (known to favor the largest party) would not produce such a disproportional outcome, particularly given that the country has several large-magnitude districts. However, the second largest party nationwide had only 17.1% (Peruanos Por el Kambio**), implying that in many districts, FP must have been far ahead and therefore poised to maximize advantage out of the D’Hondt divisors. (I did not take the time to scrutinize the district results myself.)

The assembly election was concurrent with the first round, and the FP actually ran just a little behind its candidate, who won 39.9%. PPK (the candidate) won 21.1% in the first round, thereby running well ahead of PPK (the party). Even so, he required a big runoff comeback to eventually win. In fact, Peru 2016 would be just a bit to the right of Austria’s recent (also very close) election in the graph I posted on runoff comebacks.

I do not know of another case of divided government resulting from a presidential runoff election where the assembly had been elected concurrent to the presidential first round.

This was a very unusual election season in Peru. Governing may be a challenge, and divided government may yield some upcoming reminders that the Peruvian system actually is semi-presidential.

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* By comparison, the recent election in Austria was practically a landslide.

** The spelling is a play on Pedro Pablo Kaczynski’s initials.

Elimination of open lists in Peru (proposed)

There was a debate in Peru about possibly eliminating the preference vote, and thereby changing from open to closed lists. I wonder if any readers have further information. The following news item (quoted in full) is from November, 2015:

La Comisión de Constitución del Congreso de la República inició esta mañana el esperado debate del proyecto de ley que elimina el voto preferencial para la elección de parlamentarios, sin embargo, pese al compromiso público de sus líderes, los legisladores de diversas bancadas, salvo la nacionalista, se pronunciaron en contra de la propuesta.

José León, de Perú Posible, planteó que la propuesta no sea sometida a votación hoy y que continúe el debate en el seno de la Comisión de Constitución. Dijo, incluso, que es una impertinencia cualquier intento de eliminar el voto preferencial, ya que en 20 semanas se llevarán a cabo las elecciones y ningún partido político está en condiciones de implementar todo un sistema de elección de candidatos al Congreso a través de lista cerrada.(Peru21)

The next elections are now quite soon; presumably the open list will, continue, for now at least.

So, Peru’s system is a hybrid

I’ve been trying to get the point across for years: Peru does not have a (pure) presidential system. It is a semi-presidential system.

Peruvian Prime Minister Ana Jara was forced to step down after losing a vote of confidence in Congress on Monday… President Ollanta Humala must now select a new prime minister and cabinet.

Via the BBC. My emphasis.

Also, “It is the first time in half a century that Peru’s Congress has deposed a prime minister.” But not using a power does not mean the power does not exist–and, potentially, affect the political process.

Peru’s presidential runoff

Peruvians vote today in a presidential runoff that is being described as the country’s most “polarizing” ever.

What a bad choice: the daughter for the former president-turned-dictator over the “populist” and “leftist” (perhaps “Chavista”) former army officer. That would be Keiko (daughter of Alberto) Fujimori vs. Ollanta Humala. Polls suggest the race is tight.

The polarization is, of course, exacerbated by the electoral system, this being the runoff between two candidates who managed to combine for only about 55% the vote in the first round.

The legislature was elected concurrently with the first round in April. (We had a lengthy and information discussion here at that time.) The fragmentation of the legislature elected then reflects the fragmentation of the first-round field. That is, whoever wins today will face a deeply divided legislature. However, if it is Humala, he will have a larger base of co-partisan legislators than Fujimori would have. Partly that is because he came in first in the first round (31.7%-23.5%), and partly that is because his rural support and the legislative electoral system combined to over-represent his party to a significant degree. Peru has many small-magnitude districts in rural areas, and thus his party, Gana Peru (Peru Wins), has 36.2% of the seats despite only 25.3% of the legislative votes. (Note how much weaker, however, his party was than was Ollanta himself: 25% of the votes vs. 31%.) Fujimori’s party, Fuerza 2011, has 28.4% of seats on 23.0% of votes.

What a volatile combination: a polarized presidential race, and a fragmented congress!

Peru elections 2011

Peru held elections Sunday for president (first round), congress, and (if anyone cares) Andean Parliament.

The president is elected by two-round majority. The front-running candidate won just over a quarter of the vote: Ollanta Humala, with 27.4%. As is often the case with fragmented first-round fields, the race for the second slot in the runoff was closer than the race between the top two. Keiko Fujimori appears to have made it in with 20.8%, but as just over 82% of returns have been processed, her margin over Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, at 18.1%, is not safe yet.

Former president Alejandro Toledo ran fourth, currently on 13.6%.

Fujimori is, of course, the daughter of the former president, Alberto, who now resides in a jail cell. Kuczynski is a former prime minister who served during part of Toledo’s presidency. (Yes, Peru has a semi-presidential system, of the president-parliamentary subtype, and not a pure presidential system.)

As is typical in Peru, the party system barely deserves the name. The party of the incumbent, Alan Garcia, did not even have a candidate in this process. This party, APRA, has been a major party in Peru since the 1930s, although it has held the presidency only twice, both times with Garcia (elected 1985 and 2006).*

The names of the top five candidates’ parties tell us little about what they stand for: Peru Wins, Force 2011, Alliance for the Great Change, Possible Peru, and the National Solidarity Alliance (my translations). The candidate of Justice, Technology, and Ecology managed only 0.06% and National Awakening slumbered to 0.12%, while Forward remained stuck below 0.1%.

Far less of the congressional vote has been processed at this point. Peru’s unicameral congress is elected by open-list PR, with most districts having magnitudes in the 2-9 range, except for Lima (M=35).

UPDATE: Rici has some corrections on the congressional districting and other useful information in a comment, and boz also addresses the congressional result.

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* Its “populist” founder, Victor Haya de la Torre, won a plurality in 1962, with 33% at a time when the rule was that one third of the votes was sufficient for the front-runner to be elected. Otherwise the legislature selected from the top three. A military coup annulled the results of the 1962 election.

House passes Peru trade deal, Dems divided

The House of Representatives has passed the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement. This deal was signed in April, 2006, but it is the first trade agreement to come before Congress since the change in party control in the November, 2006, US midterm elections.

Given the centrality of trade to the outcome of those elections–particularly in many swing districts–it is hardly surprising that the vote split the majority party. The vote was 285-132, with 176 Republicans and only 109 Democrats in favor. In other words, over half (53.2%) of Democrats opposed the bill (as did about one in eight Republicans).

After the change of party control, both the US and Peruvian governments agreed to modify the deal to include labor and environmental standards in order to ensure passage. It worked, even if the final vote revealed the Democrats’ continuing deep divisions on trade.

The bill still has to pass the US Senate, but that is presumably a foregone conclusion.

The pact was originally ratified by the Peruvian congress easily (79-14, with 7 abstentions) in late June, 2006. (Thanks to a Wikipedia editor for the reference.) I wonder if the Peruvian congress had to re-authorize it after the additional standards were negotiated, or if under Peruvian law such changes are within executive prerogative. (Boz answers this question in the comments: Yes, Peru’s congress did reauthorize the revised agreement. Thanks, boz!)

Japan’s upper house election: Fujimori is running on the PNP list

Alberto Fujimori, the former president of Peru, is running in this Sunday’s election for Japan’s upper house. Answering a question I raised here in June and at PoliBlog earlier today, a colleague who is currently in Japan reports that Fujimori is running on the national list.

In the upper house, there is both a nominal tier (plurality in SSDs or SNTV, depending on the prefecture) and a parallel proportional allocation by list. The list is open, so presumably the party has determined that his celebrity might bring a few extra votes to the party, through people wanting to cast a preference vote for the Peruvian Samurai.

The party he is running for is the Peoples New Party, one of the parties formed by the so-called “traitors” who voted against former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s postal privatization. As I noted at the earlier planting on this topic (first link above), this is ironic, inasmuch as Fujimori was “Mr Privatization” (as well as Mr Scandal and Mr Human Rights Abuses and various other epithets we could give him) when he was president.

The PNP has the list of candidates (in Japanese, which my colleague reads, but I don’t).

Fujimori to run for upper-house seat?

Yes, Alberto Fujimori is considering a run for office again, this time for the upper house, only not of the country for which he was formerly president, Peru (which does not even have an upper house currently). Rather, he is being recruited by a small party to be a candidate in the upper-house election next month in Japan, where he has lived since resigning the presidency in disgrace. (He holds dual citizenship.)

The party in question is the Peoples New Party, which was one of the parties formed by the “traitors“–the LDP (ruling party) legislators who in 2005 voted against then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s postal privatization plan. The defectors on that vote caused the bill to be defeated in the upper house, and Koizumi responded by dissolving the lower house and making the snap (11 September 2005) election a “referendum” on postal privatization, running “assassins” (Koizumi-recruited candidates with popularity outside of politics) against the “traitors.” Koizumi won big, but some of the traitors were reelected under their new party labels and now the PNP is struggling to survive as a a small old-timey conservative party.

The upper house in Japan, the House of Councillors, is elected partly by nominal voting (specifically, SNTV), and partly by a national tier which uses open-list PR (in which voters write either the name of their political party of choice or the name of a candidate on a party list). So there is most certainly a premium on running well known candidates–in both tiers. And Fujimori, the son of Japanese-born parents who emigrated to Peru, is certainly well known in Japan. He is being considered as a candidate in Tokyo’s four-seat electoral district, in which voters choose one candidate (i.e. the nominal tier), although the possibility of his being a candidate in the national open-list tier is also not ruled out.

An irony in this is that Fujimori, during at least the first term of his presidency, was a darling of the international group of “privatizers.” Now he might run as a candidate of a party that was born in reaction against a privatization plan.

Thanks to Steven Taylor at PoliBlog for the tip.

Humala will lead Peruvian opposition

Ollanta Humala, who lost the presidential runoff in Peru more narrowly than initially reported (52.5%–47.5%), has said he will rule out any cooperation with president-elect Alán García. Instead, he will lead the opposition, from his position as head of the party that won the most seats (45 of 120) in the parliamentary election that was held at the same time as the first round of the presidential election.

The main significance of this is that in Peru–unlike every other country of Latin America–the elected president must maintain support (or at least avert majority opposition) within the legislature in order to govern. The president governs through a prime minister who, along with the cabinet as a whole, can be ousted in a vote of no-confidence.

Humala said, “I don’t have any confidence at all in Alan Garcia. He ran one of the worst governments in the history of Peru.” No joke. But this time, García will not have what he had last time: A legislative majority under his own leadership. He will have to build coalitions, which will not be easy. Without Humala’s party, García will need the party of third-place finisher Lourdes Flores and at least one other to forge a majority.

It is not as if García would have wanted to coalesce with Humala, anyway. And the last paragraph of the above-linked BBC article notes that Humala may have other avenues with which to lead opposition, other than from within parliament.

Peru: García wins

Originally this was a post about an exit poll, and it showed García ahead, but within the margin of error. Turns out the result is a wider lead for García than the poll projected–nearly ten points.

Has any president anywhere ever served two terms this many years apart? [YES: RAFAEL CALDERA IN VENEZUELA, 1969-73 AND 1994-98.] Peru had the previous distinction of being one of the few (only?) cases where the president who won the first post-authoritarian election was the same guy the military had overthrown (Fernando Belaúnde Terry), but those two terms were only about 12 years apart. García’s first term ended about sixteen years ago, with other elected presidents, as well as an authoritarian interlude, in between.

I will leave the original post intact below.

At 53-47, I suspect this is too close to be taken as a clear indicator. I would expect García to win, but if it is really this close, I would not be surprised if it turned out the other way. I would guess that Humala would be more likely to be under-sampled, but that is just that: a guess.

As I have said before, what a terrible choice the first round result presented to the 45% of first-round voters who voted for one of the other candidates then running.

Peru no-confidence vote?

With the second round of the presidential election looming, the Peruvian parliament has been threatening a vote of no confidence in the cabinet of Prime Minister Pedro-Pablo Kuczynski.

Bloomberg notes that Fernando Rospigliosi, a political analyst at the Institute of Peruvian Studies, has linked the threat to the presidential campaign, as the APRA party of one of the runoff contenders, Alán García, is attempting to position itself as clearly opposed to incument President Alejandro Toledo.

The Apra needs to appear critical of the government to silence claims that Toledo backs Garcia’s candidacy.

Peru is the only Spanish (or Portuguese) speaking country in the Americas where it is constitutionally possible for the legislative majority to oust a full cabinet and its head in a no-confidence vote. (In other words, Peru does not have a presidential system, in the usually understood sense.)

García leads most polls. As for the substance of the proposed no-confidence vote, as has been the case in various political conflicts in the region recently, it involves a gas distribution contract. (Peru is South America’s fifth largest gas producer.) [Full story]

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.