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Opinion: Peru's democracy in crisis

What a mess: First, the Peruvian president was overthrown by Congress five months before the next election. Then violent protests break out in the South American state, two people die and dozen are injured. Less than a week later, the new interim president has to take his hat off.

At the moment, nobody really knows who will take over the leadership of the country, which has been so hard hit by COVID-19 - Peru has the second highest death rate worldwide compared to the number of inhabitants. Even a return of the fallen Martín Vizcarra seems possible.

Years of failure of the political elite

This chaos could have been avoided in any case. And it is a lesson in how the years of failure of the political elite to build stable democratic institutions can take bitter revenge. And about the fact that economic success remains fruitless if you leave politics to villains.

DW editor Isaac Risco

Vizcarra's dismissal was based on vague allegations of corruption. They are based primarily on statements from alleged key witnesses that have yet to be checked by the judiciary. Although Vizcarra had agreed to a preliminary investigation, the parliament made short work and replaced the head of state with an obscure provincial politician. As President of Parliament, Manuel Merino was not only involved in the overthrow of Vizcarra, but also its short-term beneficiary.

And another fact attracts attention: more than half of the 105 MPs who voted against Vizcarra are themselves accused of corruption. That shows where the real problem lies in the country.

Capture by corrupt interest groups

For the past two decades, Peruvian politics have been systematically co-opted by corrupt interest groups. Since the end of the authoritarian regime of Alberto Fujimori in 2000, Peru has developed extremely well economically. However, the economic boom has never stabilized political institutions. There are no real political parties - rather contradicting alliances were formed for each election, which soon fell apart hopelessly and which became increasingly shrill and absurd.

More and more dubious figures moved into parliament - dubious entrepreneurs, corrupt provincial princes, even impostors, petty criminals and crooks who had only discovered a means of enrichment in politics. They were never united by political convictions. It is with astonishment to observe in today's Peruvian legislature the extent to which a country's political life can degenerate.

Democracy needs commitment

But all of this was only made possible by the apathy of the voters. A dangerous disenchantment with politics has spread in Peru since the 1990s. This is shown by a cynical saying that is popular in the country: "He may steal, but also do something!" This describes the supposed suitability of corrupt politicians who at least also had hospitals built in the slums.

The predominantly young people who are now taking to the streets are therefore a ray of hope. You seem to have understood: Democracy also includes political commitment. Otherwise you leave the field to the villains.