Peru's President seeks re-election

Associated Press -- 27 December 1999

by Monte Hayes

LIMA, Peru (AP) - Alberto Fujimori, Peru's iron-fisted president, announced Monday he would run again in next year's elections, despite a constitutional ban against him holding a third consecutive term.

``I have decided to register my candidacy,'' Fujimori, 61, said during a taped nine-minute televised address to the nation.

``It is not that we think we are indispensable,'' Fujimori said, but he said he had come to the conclusion that his re-election was the only way to assure that the reforms he had begun would continue.

Opposition leaders and constitutional experts denounced Fujimori's decision, saying it violated the constitution and opened the way for popular insurgency against an illegal government.

``Let's hope that he abstains from taking this very dangerous step, which not only would affect him in the medium term but, what is more serious and worrisome, would threaten social peace and stability,'' said Diego Garcia-Sayan, president of the Andean Jurists Commission, a regional human rights organization based in Lima.

Opinion polls show Fujimori has surged to first place in recent months, after trailing in third, despite the country's two-year recession and high unemployment. Analysts attributed Fujimori's renewed popularity in part to a state-financed dirty-tricks campaign against leading opposition candidates.

Critics have accused Fujimori's intelligence service of financing both violent protests against his adversaries and smear attacks in sensationalist tabloids while pressuring television stations to deny access to opposition views.

Fujimori denied any role in the attacks, which his spokesmen described as isolated incidents initiated by local officials trying to gain the president's favor.

Fujimori, the son of poor Japanese immigrants, first won election in 1990 in a stunning upset over famed Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa. Peruvians re-elected him in 1995, after he had captured leftist rebel leaders, stemmed guerrilla violence and halted the economic chaos of the 1980s.

In 1992 he shut down the opposition-led Congress and the courts, saying they were crippling his efforts to carry out free-market reforms and to battle the bloody Shining Path insurgency.

His supporters won control of a new Congress in 1993 and wrote a new constitution permitting a single consecutive re-election.

In 1996 the Fujimori-dominated Congress circumvented the ban on a third straight term with a controversial law that purportedly ``interpreted'' the constitution. The law said in effect that his election under the old charter did not count towards the number of terms permitted.

Constitutional experts contend the law violated both the letter and spirit of the constitution. But it has held up because Fujimori appointees control the courts and the national election board.