from highly ideological party discourses to addressing more practical demands (jobs, schools, public
works) also reflects the preferences of an electorate skeptical of any political promises and oriented
towards concrete results.  On the other hand, the weakness and fragmentation of these political groups
reinforce the weaknesses found within civil society and provide fertile terrain for authoritarian populism,
a phenomenon that predates President Fujimori. In practice, therefore, the current party system does not
offer the most effective channels for interest representation. Nor does it promote competition of ideas. It
has been virtually incapable of serving as a counterweight to central government power. Given these
problems, it is not surprising that the public continues to rate parties 
independent movements among
the institutions of lowest legitimacy and esteem.
With such limitations on the Judiciary, Congress and political party system, key civil society
organizations are the leading domestic actors in the effort to promote greater competition and curtail
government power. In particular, a number of NGOs and educational institutions have taken the lead in
activities ranging from the defense of basic human rights and civil liberties, to the monitoring of
elections, to the development of public policy alternatives and the promotion of greater participation by
disadvantaged groups. In order to overcome the fragmentation of societal interests, such organizations
have sought to build nationwide alliances, strengthen their international contacts, expand and diversify
their funding sources, and build longer term sustainability. Their willingness to do all of this against
considerable odds marks a notable contrast to the short term priorities of most political parties to date.
Finally, two basic tools are required for all competitors in a democracy access to the media and to
money. A free and independent media is essential to provide an outlet of expression for various actors,
and to inform the voters of their rights and options. In Peru, the emergence of new leaders no longer
depends on having an organized cadre of party militants but rather on access to the mass media and
particularly to commercial television, the main source of political information for the majority. However,
since 1995 Peru's relatively free media has become increasingly vulnerable to government intimidation,
in part due to the financial instability of this sector. As a result, the media has engaged in self censorship
on critical issues such as the structure and behavior of the armed forces and human rights violations.
Nevertheless, print media and cable television still have considerable freedom, and journalists enjoy
relatively high levels of public confidence.
In a healthy democracy, neither formal rules nor informal practices should exclude segments of the
population from participation in governmental or non governmental arenas, and participation in the
public sphere should be a legitimate means for advancing the interests of the disadvantaged. As noted
earlier, Peru is a country of great ethnic and cultural diversity, but exclusion of the poor and nonwhite
majority from political and social power has been a historical barrier to democracy. Since the 1970s,
however, important advances have been made in this realm, through increased access to education,
expanded civil society organization and elimination of most formal barriers to participation.
Today there are no legal barriers to political participation by civilian adults in Peru. Adult suffrage is
universal and obligatory, and a recent  quota law  stipulates that at least 25% of the candidates on all
party lists be women. In the past two decades there has been a notable increase in the number of mayors,
city council members, congressional candidates and even presidential aspirants, who come from humble
backgrounds or are of non European descent.  Nonetheless, formidable barriers remain to including
millions of Peruvians in the public institutions that affect their lives. Poverty, illiteracy, and the low
 of public education limit participation. Because of linguistic and cultural barriers, peasant women
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