interest groups. Together we call this stratum political society , to distinguish it from the broader
sphere of particular and grassroots organizations.
In the short term, the Team believes it is premature to engage in traditional party strengthening activities,
which might simply perpetuate transitory political movements lacking a firm commitment to democratic
rules or values. Nevertheless, this sphere of political society should be given higher priority, with a
possible two track approach. First of all, D/G staff should give greater priority to partners that can play
this intermediary role, including business groups and networks of NGOs. D/G staff can also encourage
other USAID programs to emphasize institutional strengthening in their program activities, and
encourage coordination among donors interested in putting the issue of civil and political society on their
Second, it suggests promoting debate about and concrete proposals for reform of the existing electoral
rules and structures of representation that contribute to party fragmentation and weakness, elements also
cited in the OAS recommendations. Furthermore, it suggests dialogue among current and potential new
political leaders aimed at seeking solutions to the present crisis of political competition and
representation. Ideally, such activities would feed into legislative and constitutional reform efforts in the
new Congress, and could also help to identify candidates for more specific leadership training or party
development initiatives in the medium term.
Despite modest advances in technical efficiency, the Congress since 1992 has been incapable of fulfilling
its formal role as an autonomous branch of government that represents citizens interests, promotes the
free competition of ideas and policies, and checks abuses of executive power. Instead, Congress has
passed laws of questionable constitutionality that restrict political competition and undermine the
functioning of other actors and institutions. This has been due in large part to the existence of a
disciplined and submissive pro government majority, and exacerbated by the weakness and division of
the minority parties.
While the new government elected in May 2000 may have already pieced together a new congressional
majority, there is no guarantee that the new majority coalition will prove as cohesive as was the case
during the 1995 2000 period. Opposition parties hold a larger share of the seats in the new Congress and
have greater public support than in 1995 2000. These are potentially encouraging developments. A
larger and less fragmented parliamentary minority could help to make the 2000 2005 Congress a more
important forum for public debate, a sphere for new leadership development, a source of initiative for
reform, and an institution that is at last capable of fulfilling its constitutional oversight functions.
Recently, members of government and some Congressional leaders have indicated a willingness to
support reforms in existing electoral rules and in the size and structure of Congress. The litmus test of
their sincerity will be measured in both legislative process and output: whether lofty declarations
translate into policy and whether policy reflects a process of negotiation and compromise within the
Congress and among branches of government.
In this uncertain context, the Team recommends conducting a formal sector assessment for legislative
strengthening and complementary civil society activities, after the new legislature is convened. This need
not be a lengthy effort, but should be conducted by legislative development experts from within and
outside Peru. It should emphasize what strategic interventions can address the main problem of
legislative autonomy and checks and balances on state power, rather than just the technical aspects of
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