The election of Alberto Fujimori to the presidency of Peru in 1990 marked the first time the Peruvian people had elected a president who was not a member of the traditional ruling class; that is to say, although he was male, he was not a white middle/upper-class member of the elite. Not only did Fujimori’s social class separate him from the normal power base of Peruvian politics, but the fact that he did not belong to one of the traditional political parties separated him further from the historical power base of Peruvian politics.This very virtue of offering the Peruvian people something different to their previous leaders was a crucial factor in enabling Fujimori to defeat the world famous novelist Mario Vargas Llosa in the 1990 election, as, to the Peruvian people, Fujimori represented a break from the failures of previous politicians.
Following an eventful first couple of years in power, a new constitution was enacted on 31st December 1993, following a referendum in October that year. One of the ways in which the new constitution differed from the old one was that it allowed for the re-election of the president (prior to this, the president of Peru had to stand down at the end of each term). Fujimori took advantage of the amended constitution to secure re-election in 1995, without too much controversy. What did cause consternation, however, was his decision to run for the presidency once again in 2000. Although victory would, in practice, lead to his second re-election (prohibited by both the new and old constitutions), Fujimori argued that this would be legal, as, in fact, it would only constitute his first re-election since the 1993 constitution came into effect. Having been permitted by Peruvian electoral bodies to run for the presidency again, Fujimori subsequently won the 2000 election, and on the 28th July that year he began his third consecutive term in office.
Evo Morales was elected president of Bolivia in 2005, and took office in early 2006, under a constitution that did not allow for re-election. A new constitution was ratified by a referendum in January 2009, and this new constitution permitted the president to have one re-election. Morales was duly re-elected in December 2009. Recently, with his 7-year term due to end and the president still proving popular with the electorate (although not as popular as at the time of his 2009 re-election), he has announced his decision to stand for re-election in the 2014 general election, stating that were he to win the election, then this would constitute his first re-election under the terms of the new constitution, and would therefore be legal. This has since been ratified by Bolivia’s Constitutional Court, thus paving the way for Morales to attempt to gain a third successive term in 2014’s general election.
The parallels between Fujimori and Morales are striking. Not only have both represented to their respective electorates a break from traditional politics, coming from social groups outside of those from which the political class is usually drawn, but both have also amended their countries’ constitution to allow for re-election. Subsequently they have been re-elected and then used identical arguments to enable themselves to stand for a further re-election. What remains to be seen is whether their trajectories will be similar. After (narrowly) winning the Peruvian presidency again in 2000, in an election that was widely criticized as fraudulent, Fujimori was forced from office in November 2000 following a corruption scandal, a mere few months after winning the election. This prolonging of his spell in power, along with claims of authoritarianism, corruption, and human rights abuses, have somewhat overshadowed the notable achievements the Fujimori administration made in improving the economy and in the fight against terrorism. Should he succeed in being re-elected next year, Evo Morales will surely wish to end his presidency with a better legacy than that of Fujimori, who currently finds himself imprisoned in Peru. Given the fact that the Peruvian’s third term was that which brought about his downfall, Morales might consider himself to be better off quitting while he is ahead.