Peru's New Constitution Seems Sure to Satisfy the President's Desires Fujimori Pushes His Reelection and the Death Penalty for Terrorists

Article excerpt

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 president.

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 force.

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 Chavez.

"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. …


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