Elections in Peru – Elecciones en el Perú
Posted October 4, 2010on:
Today was election day in Perú. The elections are for the alcaldes (mayors) of each district as well the alcalde de La Provincia de Lima. In each district, only the people who live in that district can vote for their local candidate. However, everyone that lives in the Province of Lima votes for the Mayor of Lima. The Mayor of Lima is the second most important person in government after The President, Alan Garcia.
The current Mayor of Lima is Luis Castañeda Lossio. He is not running for re-election as he has already served two terms. One of his greatest achievements is the completion of the Metropolitano transit system.
Interestingly, the top two candidates for the Mayor of Lima in this election are both women. Lourdes Flores is the candidate for the Partido Popular Cristiano, which is a conservative Christian party and Susana Villarán is the candidate for Fuerza Social, a left-wing party. Lourdes Flores had a large lead early in the campaign, but a couple of weeks ago she was involved in a wire-tap scandal that hurt her in the polls. She gained back some ground this last week and the race is extremely close.
Unlike in Canada the elections here are held on a Sunday. The polls open at 8am and close at 4pm. Normally, the results are known by 7 or 8pm, but because the race is so close, as of 9pm tonight the results for the Mayor of Lima have still not been confirmed.
In addition to voting for their local district mayor and the Provincial Mayor, Peruvians are also voting on a referendum in this election. The referendum is over a proposed bill to return Fonavi (Fondo Nacional de Vivienda) funds to the workers who contributed to it. Fonavi was a national housing and infrastructure fund to which worker’s contributed from 1979 to 1998 but from which they never received any benefits. The national government has indicated that if the bill passes they will raise taxes to pay for the program. The big question is what happened to the funds they originally deducted from the workers! With a sales tax that is already a whopping 19%, it seems insane that they are considering raising it as high as 22%.
Leaving aside the politics of the election, what I have found more interesting is the electoral process. All Peruvians over the age of 18 years are obligated to vote. Voting is mandatory and if you don’t vote you are fined. Even if you are traveling abroad at the time of an election you are required to go to the nearest Peruvian Embassy to vote. There are, however, some Peruvians who still do not vote and pay the fine, especially if they are not near the district in which they reside or a Peruvian Embassy at the time of the election. Luis received a fine for not voting while he lived in Russia.
It is also mandatory to serve as a Miembro de Mesa (Member of the Table) if you are selected. The Miembros de Mesa are the people who work at the polls. They check people’s identity, give them their ballots and then take finger prints after the ballots are deposited in the box as proof that the person voted. After the polls close they are responsible for counting the votes. As with voting, people are also required to pay a fine for not serving as a Miembro de Mesa if they have been chosen. Unfortunately, Luis was selected when he was in Russia and was fined for that as well.
Finally, the strangest thing about elections in Peru is something called La Ley Seca (The Dry Law). The law states that no alcohol can be served or sold in public places starting on the Friday prior to the election. So the restaurants and bars are prohibited from serving alcohol and you can’t buy alcohol in any stores. I can’t quite understand why it is necessary to stop people from drinking two days prior to voting, but someone must have had a reason for it.
Even with La Ley Seca in place, alcohol can still be found relatively easily. On Friday night we took a stroll down La Calle de Las Pizzas, a pedestrian walkway flanked with bars and restaurants. Some were abiding by the law, but a number were calling to customers telling them they could get drinks on the second floor. We ended up going to Shehadi, a popular restaurant/bar across from Parque Kennedy on Avenida Diagonal. We asked if they were serving alcohol, more out of curiosity than anything, and they said yes. The waitress said it was worth it for them to pay the fine because of the business they would generate. Also, the owner is American and apparently didn’t see the need to comply with the law. So, we happily stopped for a drink with a few friends. The surprise came when we received the bill. They charges each person a S/.7 cover charge. So in essence, we were the ones paying the fine, not the owner!