Enabling Environments for Civic Movements and the Dynamics of Democratic Transition - Peru

Period of democratic transition: 2000–2001
Pro-democracy civic movement: present

From 1990 to 2000, Peru was ruled by right-wing populist Alberto Fujimori. Though freely elected in 1990, Fujimori dissolved the Congress in April 1992, the first manifestation of an authoritarian pattern that increased after his reelection under a new constitution in 1995.

To justify the unpopular prospect of winning a third term in 2000, Fujimori adopted increasingly authoritarian governing techniques, gutting independent oversight centers in the government and coercing the media. This helped unite a previously demoralized opposition, which engaged in a variety of ultimately unsuccessful legal efforts to try to bar Fujimori from running. Though Fujimori was declared the winner of the first-round election in April 2000, opposition outcry led by second-place candidate and opposition leader Alejandro Toledo resulted in increased international scrutiny of the process. When the May runoff election appeared little fairer, Toledo dropped out, allowing Fujimori a victory in a contest deemed neither free nor fair by international observers. The growing opposition movement then applied pressure on the streets, holding massive protests during Fujimori's inauguration and in the months after. Student groups were among the most vocal opponents but were joined by civil society groups including trade unions, nongovernmental organizations, and social movements.

A major corruption scandal emerged in September 2000 centering on Fujimori's right-hand man and intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos. Massive street demonstrations calling for the spy chief's arrest and the president's resignation, coupled with an erosion of support from the ruling elite, led Fujimori to announce his intention to hold new elections the following year, in which he would not be a candidate. Mounting civic pressure forced him to resign prematurely in November 2000 while in Japan.

Since the transition, Peru has remained tenuously democratic. After Fujimori's fall, a caretaker government directed free and fair national elections won by Toledo in June 2001. Despite low approval ratings, Toledo completed his term, and former president Alan Garcia won the 2006 election. Fujimori currently faces extradition proceedings in Chile with the goal of putting him on trial in Peru.

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