ALBERTO FUJIMORI had wanted to celebrate big on Wednesday -
Peru's Independence Day, his birthday, and the third anniversary of
his taking office - by promulgating a new Constitution, one that
would allow him to break tradition and serve another term as
It will not happen tomorrow. But it seems his wish, though
belated, will indeed come true.
Despite a race against the clock involving lengthy plenary
sessions in Congress throughout July, it has proved impossible to
debate the entire draft Constitution in three short weeks. The
revision process is not now expected to be completed before the
middle of August - and after that it is still due for popular
approval through a novel referendum mechanism before coming into
But Mr. Fujimori's most pressing wish seems likely to be
granted. The new Constitution will allow him to stand for immediate
reelection as president, breaking a longstanding Peruvian, and
indeed Latin American, tradition which prevents presidents standing
again for office without an intervening period.
Peru's minority opposition fought the reelection clause tooth
and nail in the commission that prepared the draft. But both the
parliamentary majority and the country at large, opinion polls say,
favor changing the rules for Fujimori. He still commands unwavering
support from two-thirds of Peru's population.
"He's done more for this country in three years than anyone else
in three decades," says government-party congresswoman Martha
"For the sake of stability, he should be allowed to finish the
job of reforming Peru," Ms. Chavez adds.
This could mean that Fujimori would govern Peru until the year
2005. Pro-government constitutionalists argue that if and when
Fujimori is elected president in 1995, it will be under a new
Constitution and therefore count as a first term. Reelection would
then be possible in the year 2000 for another five years.
The regime's opponents, however, are claiming that Fujimori has
cleverly hoodwinked the international community. It is now clear,
they say, that the hidden agenda of April 1992's Army-backed
"institutional coup" - when Congress was dissolved and the
Constitution suspended - was to rewrite a Constitution ensuring
Fujimori's remaining in power for at least 15 years.
Apart from the reelection issue, the only other constitutional
element to have sparked genuine popular debate is the introduction
of the death penalty for convicted terrorists. In the past 10
months, since the capture of Abimael Guzman Reynoso and other
leading guerrilla chiefs, political violence has markedly declined,
and Fujimori can repeat with growing conviction his pledge "to
totally destroy" both Mr. …