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30/10/2009 | Peru Garcia to push referendum on political reform

Reuters Staff

President Alan Garcia moved on Thursday to leapfrog Congress and get changes to Peru's political system -- including shorter terms for lawmakers -- passed by referendum.

 

Garcia needs 1.5 million signatures to put two bills on a special referendum.

"I'm going to be in charge of collecting signatures and I ask for all Peruvians to help so we can change our system faster," Garcia told reporters.

One measure would scrap compulsory voting in general elections, which political analysts say would make elected officials more accountable to constituents because only informed voters would cast ballots. Mandatory voting is common across Latin America.

The other bill would cut the terms of the 120 lawmakers in Congress to 2 1/2 years from five years. Garcia says long terms allow legislators to coast through their terms without being responsive to voters and that they should be subjected to re-election races more frequently.

A poll this month showed the bills have broad popular support.

Congress has a poor reputation in Peru, with a disapproval rating of 81 percent. At least 80 of its members are facing ethics inquiries or have been forced out for bad behavior.

Congress this week rejected the bills.

Critics said Garcia was acting like left-wing leaders in South America who in recent years have held referendums to change constitutions or allow them to run for re-election.

Garcia cannot run for re-election in 2011, but passing the bills might improve his popularity, which is only around 26 percent, and help his APRA party pick up seats in Congress.

"APRA is using the same method as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez in trying to go for a referendum and manipulate it to get a result that it thinks will favor its position in elections in 2011," said Congressman Raul Castro of the conservative National Unity party.

Garcia has also been criticized for telling investors he will work to prevent a leftist from winning the next election. Ollanta Humala, a far-left nationalist, nearly won the presidency in 2006 and is expected to make another bid.

Reuters (Estados Unidos)

 


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