The Governmental System of Peru

By Graham H. Stuart; Carnegie Institution of Washington | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V. THE LEGISLATIVE POWER.

It is a somewhat peculiar political phenomenon that the legislative bodies in countries that have a parliamentary system of government seem to be more popular with the voters than those where the presidential system is found. An Englishman will often say a good word for his parliament, and a Frenchman generally has considerable respect for both the chamber of deputies and the senate. But in the United States such words of commendation as the government receives are usually limited to the executive branch. When the legislative branch is mentioned, it is often in terms of ridicule, disparagement, or downright abuse. Whenever there is a conflict between the executive and legislative powers, public opinion is almost invariably on the side of the executive.

This habit of criticizing the legislative branch seems just as common in Peru as in the United States. The publicists seem to be nearly unanimous in their condemnation of the legislative branch of the government, and some of the most violent criticisms emanate from members of the parliamentary body. Doctor Mariano H. Cornejo, who has served many terms in the congress of Peru, has thus expressed himself:

The congresses in Peru through the atavistic and progressively accumulating vices of their organization, because of the inferiority of the political medium in which they exercise their functions, because of the degeneration of the parties which they represent, because of the pettiness of local jealousies, because of individual selfishness and lack of control of their members, lack both authority and prestige, and fail to receive those currents of opinion which are the indispensable bases of great heroism and sacrifice.1

Doctor José M. Manzanilla, president of San Marcos University, who has also served for many terms in the legislative bodies, in a much quoted address on the legislative power in Peru declared that--

Our chambers, confused by the obsession of partisanship, forget legislative matters, and in a society not yet definitely organized have the appearance of following the doctrine that that government is best which governs least, and that congress best which legislates not at all. If arbitrary administrative acts had not on occasions supplemented the indifference of the legislator, vital and urgent public necessities would have remained unsatisfied.2

Señior Pedro Dàvalos y Lissón, in his study of the political and

____________________
1
Quoted by P. Dávalos y Lissón, La Primera Centuria ( Lima, 1919), p. 80.
2
Anales Universitarios, vol. 31, p. 9.

-69-

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