Voice and Vote: Decentralization and Participation in Post-Fujimori Peru

Voice and Vote: Decentralization and Participation in Post-Fujimori Peru

Voice and Vote: Decentralization and Participation in Post-Fujimori Peru

Voice and Vote: Decentralization and Participation in Post-Fujimori Peru


In the months following disgraced ex-President Alberto Fujimori's flight to Japan, Peru had a political crisis on its hands. The newly elected government that came together in mid-2001 faced a skeptical and suspicious public, with no magic bullet for achieving legitimacy. Many argued that the future of democracy was at stake, and that the government's ability to decentralize and incorporate new actors in decision-making processes was critical. Toward that end, the country's political elite devolved power to subnational governments and designed new institutions to encourage broader citizen participation. By 2002, Peru's participatory decentralization reform (PDR) was finalized and the experiment began.

This book explores the possibilities and limitations of the decision to restructure political systems in a way that promotes participation. The analysis also demonstrates the power that political, historical, and institutional factors can have in the design and outcomes of participatory institutions. Using original data from six regions of Peru, political scientist Stephanie McNulty documents variation in PDR implementation, delves into the factors that explain this variation, and points to regional factors as prime determinants in the success or failure of participatory institutions.


In late 2000 and early 2001, Peru faced a political crisis. the former president, Alberto Fujimori, had fled the country in disgrace and faxed his resignation to Congress after evidence surfaced that he and his chief of security had bribed legislators, judges, and the media. Congress rejected his resignation and then ousted him, calling him “unfit” to govern the country. Allegations of corruption and human rights violations by party politicians dominated the headlines. the international media followed the crisis closely, noting that videos of the corruption “scandalized” the country and calling Peru “crisis-ridden” later that year.

After Fujimori left, Peruvians were extremely dissatisfied with their political system. Congress and the judiciary struggled to regain legitimacy and autonomy after ten years of authoritarian rule. Many argued that the future of democracy in Peru partly rested on its ability to decentralize its highly centralized government and incorporate new actors into decision-making processes. Peruvians were not alone. Their neighbors in Ecuador and Bolivia were also clamoring for change. Farther away in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, citizens of the Philippines, the former Yugoslavia, Haiti, and Tanzania were calling for the end of politics as usual. Representative political institutions no longer met the demands of citizens who wanted their voices to finally be heard.

In Peru, a newly elected government decided to meet the crisis head-on. Influenced by participatory models of governance, such as the experience with participatory budgets in areas of Brazil, local councils in the Philippines, and town hall meetings in the United States, the newly empowered political elite designed a comprehensive decentralization reform that explicitly mixes . . .

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