This statement is offered by an international pre-election delegation to Peru, organized jointly by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and The Carter Center. The delegation visited Peru from April 30 through May 5, 2000. This is the fourth in a series of NDI/Carter Center delegations that have observed Peru's election process thus far. In addition, the National Democratic Institute and The Carter Center organized an assessment team for the April 9 elections and have maintained a continuous monitoring presence in Peru since January, which will continue until after the second round of the presidential election. NDI and The Carter Center will organize an international assessment team for the presidential runoff election on May 28, and another joint delegation is likely to visit the country in the period immediately following the runoff, in order to more fully assess the entire electoral process.
SUMMARY OF OBSERVATIONS
Unless immediate and comprehensive improvements are made to the political environment surrounding the presidential runoff election, as well as to administrative and technical procedures required for election day and the consolidation of results, Peru's election process will ultimately fail to meet minimum international standards for democratic elections.
If the political will to make decisive improvements is demonstrated by the political contestants, governmental and electoral authorities, mass media, security forces, courts and others concerned with the process -- and if critical changes are made beginning in the next few days -- sufficient public confidence in the process could be established. At this juncture, however, the credibility of the election process is at risk.
The process leading to the presidential runoff did not begin afresh on April 28, when the date for the second round of the presidential election was officially set. As noted by the March 24 NDI/Carter Center delegation, just two weeks before the April 9 elections, irreparable damage to the integrity of the election process had already been done by that time, and the conditions for a fair campaign had not been established. The effects of that damage cannot be fully erased.
Election-day events were peaceful on April 9. Large numbers of Peruvians participated in the elections as voters, election workers, political party agents (personeros) and as election monitors. More than 19,000 Peruvian citizens mobilized as nonpartisan election monitors through the efforts of the civic group Transparencia, more than 12,000 through Consejo por la Paz and even more through other efforts.
The high degree of participation demonstrates the strong desire of the population for democratic elections. Irregularities in the voting process and serious problems with the consolidation of results, however, further raised public suspicions and further undermined confidence in the election process. A significant sector of Peruvian society believes that the first round presidential results were based on political factors, rather than an accurate count of the votes, and congressional results, which are still not official, are being questioned by some of the political parties and some observers.
Opinion polls indicate that a majority of Peruvians suspect that the process was influenced by fraudulent practices. This perception in and of itself presents a real problem. The crisis of confidence must be effectively addressed if the elections are to be seen as credible.
Candidates Fujimori and Toledo each appointed three people to meet and negotiate over conditions for electoral competition and to work out terms for a possible presidential debate. The representatives thus far have decided to meet without outside participants. The talks were suspended on May 4 after the third meeting. It is hoped that both candidates and their representatives will be able to keep the larger national interest in mind as they negotiate. This broader interest includes setting the basis for resolving problems or tensions that might emerge in the post-election period.
Three working groups were established by the ONPE, with supervision by the Defensoria del Pueblo (Ombudsman's Office) and observation by the OAS. The working groups rapidly examined election-day problems and on April 28 proposed improvements concerning: training of polling officials; managing election-day processes; and eliminating problems in the computerized vote tabulation system. If concerted efforts are made, and the recommendations are successfully implemented, election-day procedures would be improved, and transparency would be introduced into the process of consolidating results. Immediate, effective action is essential, however, if the recommendations are to be implemented in time to have a positive impact on the process.
While intensive efforts to improve administrative procedures for election day are essential, an election is much more than a technical exercise. Therefore, the problems of the political environment that marred the first round must also be remedied immediately.
Problems that marred the political environment in the run-up to the April 9 elections continue to persist in this period preceding the second round of the presidential election. Unequal access to the media by the two candidates, media bias favoring the incumbent, smear campaigns in the media that amount to character assassination against the opposition candidate and use of state resources for electoral advantage continue to subvert attempts to create conditions for a fair election campaign.
These problems are frustrating expectations for improvement. They are further undermining the integrity of the entire electoral process and are making conditions effectively worse than they were at a similar point before the April 9 elections. This increases the urgency for immediate, comprehensive and extraordinary efforts to improve the process.
This NDI/Carter Center delegation supports the recommendations of the ONPE working groups, as well as recommendations of the Defensoria del Pueblo, the OAS, Transparencia, Consejo por la Paz and others concerning required improvements in the election process. The delegation urges that immediate action be taken by those seeking to ensure the credibility of the elections. The delegation therefore offers recommendations in the last section of this statement.
THE DELEGATION AND ITS WORK
The May 2000 pre-election delegation included: Patrick Merloe, NDI Senior Associate and Director of Programs on Election and Political Processes; Gerardo Le Chevallier, NDI Director for Latin America and the Caribbean; Andres Dominguez Vial, Advisor to and former Coordinator of the Chilean Human Rights Commission and Professor of Human Rights at the Police Academy and Catholic University of Chile; and Felix Ulloa, President of Instituto de Estudios Juridicos de El Salvador and former Magistrate of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of El Salvador. The delegation was joined by Luis Nunes (Venezuela), Project Director, and Barry Levitt (Canada), Senior Political Analyst, NDI/Carter Center Joint Election Observation Mission in Peru.
The delegation was invited by the government of Peru and Peruvian civic and political leaders. The delegation's observations are based upon an extensive series of meetings with: representatives of the candidates; political party leaders; the Prime Minister; the Oficina Nacional de Procesos Electorales (ONPE); the Defensoria del Pueblo (Ombudsman's Office); nongovernmental organizations, including Transparencia, Consejo por la Paz, Foro Democratico and Instituto Prensa y Sociedad; the news media owners and Genaro Delgado Parker; the Organization of American States Election Observer Mission; and representatives of the diplomatic community from Latin America, Europe and North America.
The delegation was also informed by the research of the NDI/Carter Center field representatives, the work of the three earlier NDI/Carter Center delegations and the NDI/Carter Center election day assessment team, as well as by the work of the Organization of American States (OAS) and other organizations that are concerned with the election process. The delegation would like to express its gratitude to everyone with whom it has met for sharing their time and views.
NDI and The Carter Center are independent, nongovernmental organizations that have conducted more than 100 impartial pre-election, election-day and post-election observation delegations in the Americas and around the globe. The purposes of this delegation were to express the support of the international community for a democratic election process in Peru and to assess the evolving political environment surrounding the upcoming elections, as well as the state of electoral preparations.
The delegation conducted its activities according to international standards for nonpartisan international election observation and Peruvian law. NDI and The Carter Center do not seek to interfere in the election process nor, at this juncture, to make a final assessment about the overall process. Both institutions recognize that, ultimately, it will be the people of Peru who will determine the legitimacy of the elections and of the resulting government.
An accurate and complete assessment of any election must take into account all aspects of the electoral process. These include: 1) conditions set up by the legal framework for the elections; 2) the pre-election period before and during the campaign; 3) the voting process; 4) the counting process at the voting tables; 5) the tabulation of results; 6) the investigation and resolution of complaints; and 7) the conditions surrounding the formation of a new government. At the same time, no election can be viewed in isolation of the political context in which it takes place. The pre-election period, including electoral preparations and the political environment, must be given considerable weight when evaluating the democratic nature of elections, because this period is central to democratic electoral competition.
A. Period Preceding the April 9 Elections
NDI and the Carter Center organized three previous observer delegations to Peru to assess the electoral environment leading up to the April 9 elections. Last December, the first delegation found that the pre-election environment and institutional framework in Peru were marked by serious flaws that required "concerted and sustained efforts" if the electoral process was to meet international standards. Among other issues, that delegation pointed to the lack of media access for opposition candidates, biased news coverage, a distinct lack of coverage of issues that could affect voter choices, violation of press freedoms, problems with the legal framework and judicial remedies, lack of confidence in electoral institutions and use of state resources to gain electoral advantage.
In February, the second NDI/Carter Center delegation observed that the electoral process was still marred and in many respects conditions had worsened since early December. The delegation again highlighted continued problems with media access and bias, as well as inappropriate use of state resources in the campaign. In addition, the delegation pointed to harassment campaigns in the media against candidates, domestic election observers and the Ombudsman's Office, and noted what appeared to be an orchestration aimed to ensure a specific legal outcome on the issue of the President standing for re-election. The February delegation noted that effective measures needed to be implemented "immediately and comprehensively" so that the credibility of the process might be established and international standards met.
In March, the third delegation noted with concern the continued lack of access to the media by opposition candidates, media bias and intensified smear campaigns in certain media outlets against opposition candidates, Transparencia, the Defensoria del Pueblo and others who were critical of the government. It highlighted controversial legal proceedings, which led to the closure of a radio station that had begun to broadcast independent political news, and concerns that the Peruvian judicial system can be used for political purposes. That delegation also drew attention to use of state resources for electoral advantage and analyzed the detrimental effects on the electorate's confidence caused by the alleged falsification of over a million signatures for the qualification of one of the political parties in the alliance that is supporting President Fujimori's candidacy.
The government sought to respond to recommendations offered by NDI/Carter Center delegations and others. Many of these steps, however, came late and did not prove sufficient to overcome the critical flaws in the process.
B. The April 9 Elections
The April 9 elections were peaceful, and large numbers of Peruvian citizens participated as voters, polling station administrators (miembros de mesa), political party agents (personeros) and election monitors.
According to observer groups, many polling tables experienced irregularities. The most common irregularities cited were the presence of illegal propaganda in or around polling sites, irregularities in voting materials (including ballots that were pre-marked with votes for Peru 2000 and/or were missing Alejandro Toledo's Peru Posible), attempted intimidation of personeros by police and military officials demanding to know personeros' names and identification numbers, which the officials then recorded, and the improper participation of government officials in the voting process.
A significant number of voting stations (mesas) reported that more ballots were cast than the number of voters who signed-in on the voter lists. By law, the extra votes are counted unless the number of ballots exceeded the number of voters registered at that mesa. In addition, tallysheets (actas) from a significant number of mesas failed to note the number of voters who signed in, which led the ONPE's results to show over a million more votes cast than voters who went to the polls. Allegations of undue influence by military personnel over voters in former Emergency Zones, and the use of food aid programs to pressure voters, were also reported by observer groups and the media. These developments led many Peruvians to question the veracity of the results.
The vote computation process was plagued by irregularities and suspicion. It was not until hours before the close of the polls that the ONPE was able to conduct a successful simulation of its entire data collection and vote tabulation processes. Moreover, although technical observers from the OAS and the parties (personeros tecnicos) were allowed to watch the computation process at ONPE and its regional counterparts, the software used did not allow for effective observation and verification of results.
Inexplicable delays in the computing process and the opaque nature of the ONPE's systems created a widespread perception that the process of tabulating the results of the April 9 elections was, at least in part, influenced by political factors rather than being a purely mathematical exercise. As a result, the parallel vote tabulations (conteos rapidos) conducted by Transparencia and others appeared to enjoy greater confidence than the official results. The ONPE's results gave President Fujimori 49.87 percent of the valid votes cast and Dr. Toledo 40.24 percent. Transparencia's parallel vote tabulation gave President Fujimori 48.73
percent of the valid votes cast and Dr. Toledo 41.04 percent.
ONPE did not present complete results of the presidential election until April 28. Upon receipt of the election results, however, the JNE announced within five hours that the election day for the second round would be May 28. The rapid manner in which this date was set surprised many people. Problems were caused by the ONPE presenting results to the JNE without first providing all of the necessary information to the parties so that they could evaluate whether or not their electoral rights were violated. Nonetheless, it would be important for the parties to receive such information in a timely fashion so that they can determine an appropriate course of action.
The results for the Congressional elections also held on April 9 were still not presented by ONPE as of the time this statement was written. Opposition political parties and domestic election observers are questioning the credibility of the Congressional election results available to date, particularly the calculation of the parties' proportional allocation of seats and the tabulation of the preferential votes. Party leaders report that they do not have the "mesa-by-mesa" information they need to analyze the results and prepare electoral challenges. They also raised concerns that if the ONPE presents the final consolidated results without releasing the mesa-by-mesa results in a readable manner, they will be unable to lodge challenges within the three-day period allowed to do so by law.
C. Period Preceding the Second Round
Immediately following the April 9 elections, attention focused on whether or not there would be a second round runoff for the presidency. That question was settled on April 12, when the ONPE stated that it was mathematically impossible for any of the candidates to win in the first round. Between that date and April 15, the Defensor del Pueblo (Ombudsman's Office), Transparencia and the OAS Election Observation Mission offered recommendations about the need for urgent improvements to numerous aspects of the electoral process.
Those recommendations focused generally upon the need for electoral neutrality of government officials and prevention of the use of state resources for electoral advantage, media access for both candidates, an ethical code of conduct for the political contestants and an end to smear campaigns (guerra sucia) in the media against opposition candidates, as well as enhanced training for polling station administrators and intensive measures to improve the competence and impartiality of the ONPE, particularly concerning the consolidation of results.
Representatives of the two presidential candidates began talks on May 2, about improving conditions for the second round, including rules for a possible debate between the candidates, ethical campaign behavior and fair access to the media. Earlier efforts to broker dialogue between the candidates, making use of the auspices of the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church in Peru, were not successful, largely due to political polarization.
The ONPE set up three working groups to address training, election day administration and computer systems, each with representatives of the ONPE and the two presidential candidates, and with the participation of the OAS and the Defensoria del Pueblo.
The working groups were provided two to three days to complete their deliberations and to make recommendations for improving ONPE's performance. The accords reached within the working groups were submitted to the ONPE on April 28, and now the ONPE has 15 days to review the working groups' accords and implement their recommendations.
Unfortunately, thus far, the political environment leading to the second round is being further damaged by the problems that marred the period prior to April 9.
No agreement has been reached to provide equal and substantial media access for the two presidential candidates, through free broadcast time and/or by providing reasonable commercial rates for paid ads.
- No effective measures have been established to prevent media bias against either candidate, and evidence has been accumulating of bias in favor of President Fujimori on state-owed television and against Dr. Toledo in the much of the private media.
- Smear campaigns in tabloid press (prensa chicha) and other media have intensified to the level of character assassinations against Dr. Toledo. For example, these media accuse him of planning to free terrorists, fire public employees and other scare tactics.
- Press freedoms continue to be restricted, and journalists state that self-censorship is a continuing problem. The ownership of television channels that have been in dispute allegedly for political motivations have not been returned and the ability of radio station 1160 to broadcast still has not been reinstated. United Nations General Secretary General Kofi Annan stated this week, on International Press Freedom Day, that in every society freedom of the press is essential for transparency, good government and rule of law. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists this week denounced Peru, for the second year in a row, for systematically undermining press freedom.
- Allegations continue that state resources are being used for the electoral advantage of President Fujimori. Prime Minister Bustamante has maintained that there will be new directives against the use of state resources for electoral advantage and for the cessation of most government advertising for the duration of the election campaign. The issue of use of state resources will remain a major consideration as the public examines government behavior toward the elections. The delegation hopes that the directives will be made and that they will be followed.
- Three months have passed since the falsification of signatures to qualify the Independent Movement Peru 2000, and there has been no report or significant action within ONPE to hold anyone accountable, which reinforces a perception that there is impunity for electoral abuses.
- Weaknesses in the functioning of the judiciary, including the number of judges on provisional status, do not allow the courts be a reliable guardian of the political and civil rights that are at the core of organizing democratic elections.
- Government criticism and negative media coverage of Transparencia are undermining the important work of this monitoring organization. Indications that Transparencia may be blocked in the second round from conducting its parallel vote tabulation (conteo rapido), and excluding Transparencia, Consejo por la Paz and others from the ONPE working groups, detract from the credibility of the process.
- Time and the will to act in good faith in the national interest are perhaps the most precious commodities in addressing an election process. Each day that passes without major improvements in the political environment and to election-day administrative and technical procedures represents a lost opportunity that cannot be retrieved. When a crisis of public confidence is coupled with limited time to organize an election, along with a strong possibility of a close electoral contest, the political situation can become volatile. This lesson clearly applies to Peru.
As noted above, the delegation supports the recommendations that have been made by the Defensoria del Pueblo, Transparencia, the OAS Election Observation Mission and others, to improve Peru's election process. The following recommendations are offered in the spirit of international cooperation and in hopes of emphasizing and complementing those made by other organizations that are working to monitor the process and to help build its credibility. The delegation noted institutional weaknesses and structural defects that reach well beyond the elections but which have an impact on electoral matters. The recommendations, however, pertain only to immediate problems that are more central to the election process.
NDI and The Carter Center will continue to monitor developments surrounding the elections. A joint NDI/Carter Center observer team will be present for the May 28 election, and another joint NDI/Carter Center delegation is likely to visit the country in the period immediately following the runoff, in order to more fully assess the entire electoral process.
- The delegation stresses the need for a structured political dialogue between the political contestants. Meetings between Peru 2000 and Peru Possible that began a few days ago merit the encouragement and support of those who seek a fair election process in Peru. Confidence of the political contestants and their willingness to accept the outcome of elections depends on their reaching mutual agreement regarding the rules of contest, including ethical conduct toward each other's candidacy. It is hoped that an overall accord can be reached promptly or that a number of specific agreements can be announced daily until the essential points concerning rules of the contest are clarified.
- It is also hoped that in the course of their negotiations and throughout the electoral period the candidates and their representatives will be guided by the national interest, rather than solely by seeking short-term political advantage. In this regard, independent and credible actors, such as the Defensoria del Pueblo, Transparencia, representatives of the Catholic Church or of the international community, could be included to witness and/or facilitate the dialogue and agreements reached. It is also hoped that the candidates and their representatives will develop a mechanism to address problems that may emerge from the second round voting, counting and consolidation of results, as well as any unresolved complaints from presidential or congressional balloting in the first round.
- While events of April 9 and the following days were peaceful and largely violence free, concerted efforts by all those involved in the elections, including police and other security forces, should be made during the critical 23 days remaining before May 28 -- and for the days immediately following the election -- to avoid violence and violations of political rights.
- Campaigns of vilification (guerra sucia), which have intensified to character assassination campaigns against Alejandro Toledo, Peruvian election observers, the Ombudsman's Office and certain members of the media must stop. Journalists, editors, producers and media owners should meet their ethical and professional responsibilities, but if they fail to do so government officials, including President Fujimori, and election authorities should publicly condemn such tactics immediately and vigorously. Moreover, they should also publicly denounce the unfounded charges that are obviously part of a smear campaign.
- The media, both state-owned and private, should present accurate, equitable and balanced coverage of the presidential candidates and political parties participating in the elections, and they should provide the public with information to promote an informed and free vote.
- It is a positive step that representatives of Peru 2000 and Peru Possible have met to begin negotiations for a public debate between President Alberto Fujimori and Dr. Alejandro Toledo. It is hoped that one or more debates will be held and broadcast for the benefit of the electorate. At the same time, a debate is not a substitute for ongoing and equal access of the candidates to the mass media to communicate their messages to the voters. Moreover, media bias can negate the positive effects of debates and political advertisements for a candidate.
- Equal and sufficient access to the media, particularly to the broadcast media, should be made available to both candidates for the final three weeks of the campaign. Prior to the April 9 election, private television owners agreed to provide to each presidential candidate 10 minutes of free broadcast time during the last four days of the campaign period. Each station therefore made available up to 90 minutes of free time for the candidates during the last week of the campaign. If the channels were to make available to each of the two remaining candidates 45 minutes for each of the three weeks before May 28, the amount of time per week would be the same as that provided for the first round. Given the national import of the runoff and the ongoing lack of coverage to the opposition, the delegation recommends that the owners immediately implement such an arrangement.
- The government has announced that it will suspend all of its non-essential advertising throughout the rest of the election campaign. This is a concrete step towards fair play. This policy should also create a significant amount of broadcast time and print space that could be made available to the candidates. State funds saved as a result of this policy could be used to pay for increased candidate access to print and broadcast media. If legislative action is needed to allow this, it is recommended that Congress act swiftly to give its approval.
- The use of government resources for the electoral advantage of the incumbent must cease. This includes ending the distribution of electoral propaganda through food aid programs and use of government vehicles and aircraft at state expense to conduct activities that appear to be electioneering during the 23 days remaining before the second round. The Prime Minister should, as he has indicated that he would do, immediately reiterate -- through forceful public statements -- that any government official who uses state resources, particularly food aid, or uses public office for electoral advantage will be subject to immediate and severe administrative sanctions and, if appropriate, criminal proceedings. Such statements should be followed by immediate and effective enforcement.
- Peruvian election monitors, including Transparencia, Consejo por la Paz and others, as well as supervisors of the process from the Defensoria del Pueblo, news media and international observers should be given access to all aspects of the election process. This includes access to the 57 regional computing centers and ONPE's national center to verify proper conduct the computation process, through direct observation, parallel vote tabulations and by other techniques.
- The authorities should return the transmission equipment of Radio 1160 in accordance with the resolution of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights dated March 10, 2000. As well, the administration of television Channels 13 and 2 should be returned to these stations' original owners and management.
- The ONPE should pursue immediately and vigorously reviews of its administrative procedures and internal organization, so that the errors and delays which plagued many aspects of the first round of the elections can be minimized or eliminated in the second round. The recommendations of the three ONPE working groups should be adopted promptly, and in particular, extraordinary measures should be taken to improve the transparency of the computing process and the ability of technical observers to monitor this process.
- The ONPE should maintain an open and flexible approach to incorporating suggestions and recommendations that may result from the political dialogue between representatives of Peru 2000 and Peru Posible. Two examples of proposals that could emerge from these discussions are: the possibility of challenging (tachar) or replacing first-round polling station officials (miembros de mesa); and the possibility of reducing the total number of polling stations (mesas) to facilitate parties' mobilization of a sufficient number of pollwatchers (personeros). Establishing a positive interaction between the adoption of technical improvements and the accommodation of political agreements will be critical to the candidates and the electorate moving forward with increased confidence in the process.