Steven Levitsky

As it has in the past, Peruvian politics defied regional trends in the 1990s. Whereas democracy either took hold (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay) or at least survived (Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua) throughout most of Latin America, it collapsed in Peru. That collapse took place on 5 April 1992, when President Alberto Fujimori, in a military-backed autogolpe (self-coup), closed the Congress, suspended the constitution, and purged the judiciary. After ruling by decree for seven months, the Fujimori government held elections for a constituent assembly in November 1992; in 1993, it secured the approval, via referendum, of a new constitution. Two years later, Fujimori, who had originally been elected president in 1990, was reelected by an over-whelming margin. These developments led many observers to place Peru back in the camp of democratic (or at least “delegative democratic”) regimes. Such a characterization is misleading, however. Although the restoration of formal constitutional rule and elections represented an important step away from full-fledged authoritarianism, it was accompanied by a systematic assault on a range of democratic institutions that has left contemporary Peru with a regime that is best described as “semidemocratic.”

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