On March 9, with only a month before Peru’s April 10 presidential elections, the country’s National Elections Board (Jurado Nacional de Elecciones, JNE) barred candidate Julio Guzmán from running for election based on a possible administrative technicality related to his political party’s registration. The JNE’s decision to bar Guzmán from seeking office is completely disproportionate to the infraction in question. A disqualification on such grounds constitutes an affront to democracy and the rule of law, and should promptly be overturned upon review.
Democracies are predicated on free, fair, and open elections. The JNE ruling—unless it is overturned—threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the elections as well as the legitimacy of whoever may be elected. Disqualifying a candidate for a minor technicality not only deprives that person of his or her right to stand for public office, it deprives the people of their sovereign right to elect the leaders of their choosing. Removing one of those choices therefore strikes at the heart of the people’s exercise of their sovereignty.
The JNE’s March 9 decision is especially alarming given the proximity to the elections, the recent advances in the polls Guzmán has seen, and the history of corruption and abuse in Peruvian elections. Given these concerns, it would be important that the Board’s other decisions, including regarding presidential candidate César Acuña, also be reviewed.
Julio Guzmán has filed a request for review. Given the high stakes and short period of time before the April 10 elections, WOLA urges the JNE to undertake the review in a prompt, even-handed, and thorough manner. We believe that such a review should result in overturning the previous decision, clearing the way for Guzmán’s candidacy to proceed and for the Peruvian people themselves to decide whether or not he should be Peru’s next president. To block Peruvians from exercising this fundamental democratic right on the basis of a technicality would undermine the legitimacy of the election and represent a serious blow to Peruvian democracy and the rule of law.
Should the JNE not act with the impartiality and responsibility that the situation requires, we would encourage the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to promptly review the case, issue recommendations, and provide precautionary measures, if appropriate.
Finally, we underscore the importance of the incoming Organization of American States (OAS) electoral observation mission, which should be accorded full independence to observe Peru’s entire electoral process to ensure its credibility.