Millions of Peruvians have lifted themselves out of poverty in the past two decades, thanks to a more open and market-oriented economy yielding fast growth. Socialists don’t like it. But they have been unable to reverse the laws underpinning the country’s progress. Now they’re using the latest political crisis to make another try.
Peru’s rampant corruption is again on the front burner. Coming amid the Covid-19 pandemic and a deep recession, it has raised the ire of the nation.
Yet it’s hard to see how an electorate that so often votes for populism at the polls can extricate itself from the grasp of crooked politicians. The hard left’s solution, which is to rewrite the 1993 constitution and give the state a larger role in the economy, would make things worse.
Francisco Sagasti was sworn in as interim president Tuesday. The center-left former lawmaker replaces interim President Manuel Merino, who only a week earlier had replaced President Martín Vizcarra, who in 2018 replaced President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who resigned amid allegations of corruption. With me so far?
The civilian government has mostly followed the law, the line of succession has been more or less respected, and an April election for a new president is on schedule. That’s the good news. But it’s been a bumpy ride.
Mr. Vizcarra had no vice president when he was impeached by a 105-19 vote in the unicameral legislature earlier this month. As the head of Congress, Mr. Merino was next in the line for the job. But Peruvians who didn’t approve of the impeachment took to the streets in protest. Two people died in violent clashes with police. In an effort to restore calm, Mr. Merino agreed to step aside and let Congress choose a caretaker president.
Hard-left lawmaker Rocío Silva-Santisteban ran for the post unopposed, but she couldn’t garner enough support from her peers to win when her candidacy was put to a vote. A day later Mr. Sagasti—of the moderate Purple Party, which had opposed Mr. Vizcarra’s removal—won congressional approval. The streets are calm—for now.
Vizcarra supporters say he is a victim of congressional abuse of power. But he may have made his own bed in September 2019 when he unilaterally dissolved Congress.
The constitution allows a president to send legislators home and schedule new elections if they give him two votes of no confidence. One had already occurred. Then, on Sept. 30, 2019, Congress named a new Constitutional Court justice—which is its prerogative—ahead of considering a judicial reform he had proposed. Piqued by the move, Mr. Vizcarra declared it a “de facto” second vote of no confidence even though no such vote had occurred. Scholars are still debating the legality of that decision, though the high court voted 4-3 in the president’s favor in January.
Mr. Vizcarra ruled by decree for five months. His relationship with the new Congress elected in January wasn’t much better. In September lawmakers released audiotapes that allegedly exposed witness tampering on the part of the president, but a subsequent impeachment vote failed.
After whistleblowers came forward alleging Mr. Vizcarra took bribes while he was governor of the Moquegua region from 2011-14, a second vote to impeach succeeded.
Technically Mr. Vizcarra was removed on grounds of “moral incapacity,” the same tool used to impeach President Alberto Fujimori in 2000. Mr. Vizcarra is crying foul because he has not been convicted of a crime. But impeachment in Peru is a political process, as it is in the U.S. and most other countries. Even the high court, which leans in Mr. Vizcarra’s favor, ruled last week that his removal is constitutional.
Plus, as a self-described champion of anticorruption, Mr. Vizcarra needed to be squeaky clean. A judge has barred him from leaving the country and prosecutors have charged him with aggravated collusion, bribery and illicit association to commit a crime. Mr. Vizcarra maintains his innocence.
Peruvians are frustrated. They have been told that by voting they can secure an honest government. But elected officials repeatedly turn out to be self-interested and corrupt. The public perennially mistakes its dashed hopes as a problem of the wrong people in the job. Yet as fast as they throw the bums out and bring in new ones, more scandals arise.
At the core of this dysfunction is a state with vast powers to redistribute wealth. The incentives to maintain the status quo are significant. Even voters who say they want less corruption may find that change conflicts with their self-interest. The siren song of populism draws them to politicians who can hand out plenty of government jobs and other goodies in a world of weak institutional checks.
That such power is abused is as predictable as human nature itself. So too is Peru’s grim future if the statist rabble-rousers demanding a new constitution prevail.
Write to O’Grady@wsj.com.
There’s still more work to do to level the field in politics – TVO
Last month, the Greens’ Annamie Paul made history when the first Black national major-party leader ran for a seat in a Toronto byelection.
And there was another significant breakthrough that night.
Thanks to the election of two new women MPs — Marci Ien in Toronto Centre and Ya’ara Saks in York Centre — there are now 100 female MPs in the House of Commons.
That’s never happened before in 153 years of Confederation.
That achievement notwithstanding, more than 70 per cent of the members on Parliament Hill are still men, so perhaps the huzzahs should still be a bit muted. When it comes to female representation in Parliament, Canada ranks 59th in the world — yes, ahead of the United States, which is 78th. But we’re somewhere between Albania and Estonia, which doesn’t feel like much of an achievement.
Despite the current prime minister’s once saying, “Because it’s 2015” in answer to a question about why he wanted gender parity in his cabinet, we’re still a long way away from that when it comes to everyday members of Parliament.
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Three Canadian political trailblazers explored why it still seems tougher for women than men in politics during a discussion hosted by the Canadian Club of Toronto last Friday. Ottawa’s first female mayor, Charlotte Whitton (1951-56; 1960-64) may have famously quipped, “Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.” But that joke belies how elusive gender parity still is in partisan politics.
Kim Campbell, still Canada’s only female prime minister out of the 23 we’ve had, pointed to the difficulty women have when it comes to most of the political prerequisites for election.
“Women are loath to ask for money,” she said, referencing the fundraising required to run a good campaign. “And we’re socialized not to toot our own horns, which you sometimes need to do in politics.”
And, of course, there’s the issue of power.
“When people have a privileged access to power, they may not want to give it up,” Campbell added. “But a lot of this privilege is invisible to men. It’s not that they’re bad; they just don’t see it.”
The city of Waterloo has been electing MPs since 1867. Famous ones, too, such as William Lyon Mackenzie King — Canada’s longest-serving prime minister — and former hockey legend Howie Meeker. But never a woman, until Bardish Chagger did it in 2015. A year later, she became the country’s first-ever female government house leader. She insists politics shouldn’t be about taking something away from men.
“It’s about creating more space and the conditions for success for others,” she said. Now that Chagger is the current government’s minister for diversity, inclusion, and youth, she said, “I represent all voices, including people who don’t identify as male or female. We simply need to create more pathways for success.”
“We all have to commit ourselves to opening up the narrative and understanding why exclusion is so unjust,” added Campbell.
Then, in a nice non-partisan gesture, Chagger told the audience on Zoom that, when she gives her constituents tours of Parliament Hill, she makes sure people see the portrait of Campbell.
“It’s my favorite picture to show people,” she said.
Paul, the new leader of the Green Party of Canada, the country’s first Black major-party leader, and the first Jewish woman to lead a national party, was a graduate student at Princeton University in the late 1990s when her son was born. “I just brought him to class with me and breast-fed him in class,” Paul recalled. “I didn’t ask permission, because I knew they’d say no. My professors just looked to the sky when I’d talk!”
What’s Paul’s advice?
“The structures of politics are not designed with women in mind,” she said. “We have to eliminate the barriers to women’s participation.”
Marion Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, once famously said, “It’s hard to be what you can’t see.”
“If you’re not reflected in institutions, you won’t think to do it,” Paul said. “The good news is, we’re living in a moment where things we previously thought were impossible are now possible.”
Campbell also pointed out that, when her predecessor, Brian Mulroney, appointed her (and Mary Collins) to cabinet in 1989, “neither of us had kids. That meant managing our personal lives was easier. If you look at the majority of men in the U.S. Congress, they have wives that don’t work. So we have to look at the structural things that get in the way of women serving.”
Paul echoed those comments more than three decades later.
“Unless there are profound changes to the system, we have no hope for balance,” she said. “I couldn’t have done this job if my kids had been younger.”
To be sure, legislatures across Canada are more family-friendly places today. Back in Campbell’s day, she and others made sure the House didn’t sit one week out of every four, enabling everyone to get home for a sustained period of time. They also did away with night sittings.
“It wasn’t just good for us,” Campbell pointed out. “It was good for men, too, who didn’t want to sit around all night drinking and playing cards waiting for a vote. They wanted to be with their families, too. So we didn’t just do this so the ‘girls’ could serve.”
Canada’s 19th prime minister has championed a controversial idea that could fix the House of Commons’ gender imbalance in one election: ensure every riding has one male and one female MP. That’s right, two MPs for every riding. If the idea of doubling the number of politicians in Ottawa offends you, make the riding boundaries bigger and have fewer of them. The point is, the House could achieve gender balance in one fell swoop. Whether you like or dislike the idea, it would surely be a grand experiment in whether increased female participation in public life makes a difference. It’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t.
Campbell now lives part of the year in Florence, Italy. A daughter of World War II veterans, she noted that 50 Canadian soldiers, most of them in their twenties, are buried in Florence.
“They put their lives on the line,” she said admiringly. “I’m so glad I don’t have to be that brave. But we can all do more. Just step up. Watch the news, and you’ll see what happens if we don’t take care of our democracy. Vote. Write a cheque. The alternative is unthinkable. Women have a unique role to ensure those eventualities don’t happen.”
It wasn’t that long ago that six of Canada’s 10 provinces had female premiers. In fact, Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne became the sixth in 2013. Today, there are none. (Caroline Cochrane, the lone female government leader in the country today, is premier of the Northwest Territories.) But Campbell isn’t despondent.
“Don’t allow the setbacks to lead you to think there’s no support for women out there,” she said. “In 2016, 65 million people pulled the lever, marked their X, or punched their chad for a woman as President of the United States. Whatever the difficulties, we shouldn’t think people don’t get it, because a lot of people do.”
Perspective – Nicolas Sarkozy's trial represents 'the old world of French politics' – FRANCE 24
Issued on: 23/11/2020 – 11:29
The trial of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy is so important, partly due to his superstar status here in France. So says Bruno Cautrès, a researcher at CEVIPOF, the political research centre at Sciences Po University in Paris. Sarkozy is set to make history as the first ever former French president to face corruption charges. The 65-year-old is still idolised by many on the right and continues to claims he’s being persecuted as he faces a number of different legal cases against him.
Hiring of family shows that in politics, ethics are all relative – Toronto Star
Do you lend money to relatives?
Do you have them over for the holidays every single year?
Do you hire them?
The answer to all three is of course no. If it’s yes, the family octopus has you firmly in its tentacles. What once was emotional is now fiscal.
Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi hired her sister, which is why she was booted out of the caucus faster than former Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould — also stranded — and now they will sit together at the back of the class in a dark cobwebbed corner of the House of Commons reserved for Independents.
For there are some things you can’t do — secretly taping your coworkers is one — and asking your sister to invent an alias and hide in a back room when people come to the office is another.
The CBC reports that Ratansi’s sister worked in her Don Valley East constituency office for years. When Ratansi lost her seat and then won it back in 2015 — new rules in 2012 had banned hiring siblings — she hired her sister Zeenat Khatri in 2017 and told her to call herself “Jenny.”
The office staff told the CBC they were bullied by Ratansi, who yelled at and insulted them while mistreating constituents of certain ethnicities.
The staff were told to call Zeenat by her new name — I can understand why they had to go along with it. But why did Jenny?
If my sister hired me illegally, first of all my name would be “Vanessa.” I am a definite sort of person and have always thought my name should have an “n” in it.
And second, you are not the boss of me.
Third, if you hide me in a back office under an alias, I want a Peloton exercise bike, Poppin filing cabinets and walls painted the colour Yes Your Honour, a Fired Earth paint very hard to find on this continent.
Fourth, $89,700 a year is base salary. I deserve merit pay, just for being your sister.
Then my sister — who is in real life infinitely kind — would end the job interview. I’d stomp out saying “Fifth, nobody here likes you.” Which in Ratansi’s case was actually true.
It’s the little things that finish you, the bits that leave voters weirded out. Why did disgraced Conservative MP Tony Clement lurk online? Why did former Liberal senator Colin Kenny run an Ottawa tanning salon on the side? Why did Lynn Beyak, a toxic Conservative senator, donate to the Trump campaign?
Why did former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, back when he was Speaker of the House, hire his sister, Anne Marie Grabetz? When he was told he could no longer do that, he fired her. Was that popular at home?
After that, why did he hire his sister-in-law Erica Honoway for his Regina constituency office, firing her later?
The Globe reported that Honoway, who hired Scheer’s wife Jill in her Regina decorating business, went on to work for a senator pal of his, Denise Batters — same difference. Why did he bill the Conservative Party for private school for four of his children?
Obviously, they had a bad case of Stranger Danger and could only cope at work if family members were near. I can only cope at work if family members are far away, but to each his own.
It’s a phenomenon I call clumping: being so insecure that you surround yourself with people you grew up with, who are then in your debt. It’s hardly at a cousin-marriage-in-Arkansas level, but it still reeks of nepotism.
Scheer is such a strange man, and a bad Conservative hire. He has never really worked outside politics, and doesn’t understand normal people, office culture or wearing a mask — you know, the basics.
That’s why he plans to remain an MP even after being dumped as leader in favour of Erin O’Toole, now trying to be Canada’s Trump, as Star columnist Bob Hepburn has so eloquently written. When the Conservatives dump O’Toole, what if he doesn’t leave?
Do these dubious Ottawa types meet for a Christmas dinner that gets larger every year? Do they say “We’ll always have each other!” as they grimly raise their glasses to a better 2021?
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