Karencita de Perú

Presidential Election 2011

Posted on: April 6, 2011

On Sunday April 10, 2011 Peruvians will go to the polls to elect a new President.  As a Canadian living in Peru it has been interesting to watch the campaign process and compare elections here to those in Canada.  Here are some of the major differences about the system of government and the election process.

Political System

Peru is a Constitutional Republic unlike Canada which is a Parliamentary Democracy.  This means that in Peru, like in the US, the public votes directly for the leader of the country, the President.  In Canada we do not get to vote directly for the leader, the Prime Minister.   Canadians vote for their local Member of Parliament (MP) only.

Peru has three levels of government.

1.  The Executive –  The powers of the executive are held by the President who performs the duties of the Head of State.  The President conducts government policies supported by a cabinet of 15 ministers, who he appoints.

2.  The Legislative – The National Congress, made up of 120 members, is responsible for representing the collective opinion of the nation.  It’s main duties are:

  • Representation of the people,
  • Making of the laws that rule the country
  • Oversight of the other branches of government
  • In charge of the final amendment of the Constitution

3.  The Judicial – headed by the Supreme Court of Justice which has jurisdiction over the entire nation. The judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the National Council of the Judiciary.

Canada also has 3 levels of government – the monarchy, the Senate and the House of Commons; however it could be argued that only one of these, the House of Commons, really has any power.

Mandatory Vote

It is obligatory to vote in Peru.  If Peruvians don’t vote they will be fined.  Interestingly, the amount of the fine varies depending on where you live.  If you live in a district considered “not poor” the fine is currently 72 soles (approx. $25).  If you live in a district considered “not extremely poor” the current fine is 36 soles ($12.50).  Finally, if you live in a district considered “poor” the fine is only 18 soles ($6.25).

Even Peruvians living abroad must vote.   A watched a program on TV the other day about the election campaign in New York, USA.  There is a large population of Peruvians there.  Each party has a campaign headquarters and there are the same election signs that you see on the streets or Lima in the streets of New York in the neighborhoods where the majority of the Peruvian population lives.

Election Process

Peru has fixed elections every 5 years.  In contrast, the Canadian system has non- fixed election dates and elections can be called or forced at any time.  This means that the upcoming Canadian Federal Election of May 2nd will be the 5th time that voters have had to go to the polls since the year 2000.  It is interesting that Peruvians and Canadians will both be voting for a new government less than a month apart.

Elections in Peru are always on a Sunday whereas in Canada they usually fall on a Monday.

Every election needs people to collect and count the ballots on voting day.   The organization that runs the voting process in Peru is called ONPE (Oficina Nacional de Procesos Electorals).   Citizens are appointed to be Miembros de  Mesa (Members of  Table), an obligatory duty.  If you do not comply you will be fined.  My husband had the (mis)fortune of being selected to be a Miembro de Mesa.  He had to attend a 2.5 hour training class last Sunday and will be expected to work the polls from 7:30am until all the ballots are counted on April 10th.  The polls close here at 4pm and it is hoped that the votes would be counted by 7:30pm.  There is no pay for giving up your time as it is considered a civic duty.  They don’t even provide food to the workers.

In Canada elections are managed by Elections Canada.   Citizens are hired for a number of positions leading up to the election and on election day.  A poll clerk,  work at a polling stations handling the ballots and directly voters to the appropriate voting booth is paid $168.26 for the day.

Next time I’ll talk a little about the candidates, the parties and the key issues in the election campaign.


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