Deputies and 23% of the Senate. One of his arguments for closing Congress in 1992 was precisely this
lack of a supportive majority.
The 1997 electoral law extends the single district Congress, which was implemented for the 1995
elections and was to have lapsed with the 2000 elections. The switch from multiple districts to the
current system is largely a result of the decline in public support for Congress, which was seen as too
large, inefficient, and prone to corruption. The change to a single district carries implications for party
competition as well as for representation. Multiple districts permit a more direct relationship between
representative and voter, obliging representatives to pay greater attention to constituent interests and
favoring the consolidation of a smaller number of parties. While the unitary district enables more groups
to compete and achieve representation and tends to create cohesive majorities, it also weakens regional
representation, attenuates the link between voter and representative, and induces or exacerbates party
Electoral campaigns under this system are primarily concentrated in the capital city of
Lima where many candidates and a large proportion of the electorate reside, and they are weighted
towards television advertising rather than local organizing. Both factors are disincentives for establishing
regional party structures or including provincial representatives on party lists. The 2000 election was no
exception. The majority of candidates in the top 10 positions all congressional lists hailed from Lima
Another factor that contributes to party fragmentation is the preferential vote. This mechanism, in effect
since 1985, allows voters to select their preferred candidates from within their chosen party's list of 120
congressional candidates, rather than having to accept the order presented by party leaders. Although the
preferential vote allows the voters greater freedom of choice, it also weakens party unity and discipline
and reinforces personality politics. Each of the 120 candidates from a given political party must run
separate campaigns and compete against each other for voter preferences. Candidates with more
economic resources have an advantage in running a national campaign. As a result, there are even more
campaigns and messages, often confusing the average voter. Furthermore, when combined with the
single electoral district, the preferential vote can work against rural candidates who may not be known in
other parts of the country and who lack the financial base for a regional campaign.
In summary, the congressional election process favors a multiplicity of weak and divided competitors
rather than strong and cohesive parties. In turn, the number of parties presenting candidates (14 in 1995
and 10 in 2000), the proliferation of individual congressional campaigns (1200 candidates in 2000), and
the rules regarding split ballots and preferential voting all contribute to make the electoral system
confusing to most citizens and poorly understood by both voters and poll watchers. In the 1995
congressional elections, for example, an estimated 38% of the total vote was annulled, due largely to
incorrect tallies of the preferential votes.
Two Steps Forward: Municipal Elections and the Quota Law
While the national electoral process became increasingly problematic as an arena for democratic
competition and consolidation in the 1990s, there were two bright spots in the system in regard to
inclusion: municipal elections and the participation of women.
This is the view of many leading experts on electoral systems. For more information, refer to the interview with
Cuestion de Estado
, Number 24 (August 1999), pp. 50 51.
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