The constitution of 1979, signed by the president of the Constituent Assembly, Victor Raul Haya de la Torre, on July 12, 1979, while he was virtually on his death-bed, sought to restore strong presidential power. Largely influenced by the French Fifth Republic, the constitution of 1979 established a presidential system with a bicameral legislature and a Council of Ministers, which was appointed by the president.
An excessively broad document, the 1979 charter covered a host of rights and responsibilities of government, private persons, and businesses. It also established the structure of government and mandated measures to effect social changes, including the eradication of illiteracy and extreme poverty. The constitution could be amended by a majority of both houses of Congress.
The constitution guaranteed a series of liberties and rights, including the freedom of expression and association and the right to life, physical integrity, and "the unrestricted development of one's personality." Although the Roman Catholic Church is entitled to the cooperation of the government, Catholicism is not the official religion of the country, and religion is a matter of personal choice. Workers were guaranteed collective bargaining rights and had the right to strike and to participate in workplace management and profits. Public servants, with the exception of those with decision-making power and the armed forces and police, also had the right to strike.
The president is popularly elected for a 5-year term. A constitutional amendment passed in 2000 prevents immediate reelection, but allows unlimited nonconsecutive terms. The constitutional president had a wide range of powers and served as chief of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. He had the power to appoint members to the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Court of Justice, submit and review legislation enacted by Congress, rule by decree if so delegated by the Congress, declare states of siege and emergency, and dissolve the Chamber of Deputies, if it voted to censure the Council of Ministers three times in one term of office. In practice, the constitutional president had even more power, as he had a remarkable amount of freedom to rule by decree.
The first and second vice presidents also are popularly elected but have no constitutional functions unless the president is unable to discharge his duties. The principal executive body is the Council of Ministers, headed by a prime minister and comprised of 18 members following the creation in October 2011 of a Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion. The president appoints its members, who must be ratified by the Congress. All executive laws sent to Congress must be approved by the Council of Ministers.
The legislative branch consists of a unicameral Congress of 130 members. In addition to passing laws, Congress ratifies treaties, authorizes government loans, and approves the government budget. Members of Congress were elected according to their position on party lists, rather than on the basis of local or regional representation, and thus did not have a strong regional or executive base.
The judicial branch of government is headed by a 16-member Supreme Court. The Constitutional Tribunal interprets the constitution on matters of individual rights. Superior courts in regional capitals review appeals from decisions by lower courts. Courts of first instance are located in provincial capitals and are divided into civil, penal, and special chambers. The judiciary has created several temporary specialized courts in an attempt to reduce the large backlog of cases pending final court action. In 1996 a human rights ombudsman's office was created.
Peru is divided into 25 regions that are still sometimes referred to as "departments." The regions are subdivided into provinces, which are composed of districts. High authorities at the regional and local levels are elected.
The country’s decentralization program is designed to return some of the mining and hydrocarbons royalties (canon) to the regions so that infrastructure projects can take place. Since the current decentralization process began, in 2002, local actors have played an increasingly prominent role. Regional movements now hold sway at the subnational level, and the national political parties have been increasingly weakened. On 05 October 2014, citizens voted to elect 12,692 subnational authorities, including 25 regional presidents, 25 regional vice presidents, 274 regional council members, 195 provincial mayors, 1,751 provincial council members, 1,647 district mayors, and 8,775 district council members.
Suffrage was free, equal, secret, and obligatory for all those between the ages of eighteen and seventy. The right to participate in politics could be taken away only when one was sentenced to prison or given a sentence that stripped a person of his or her political rights. No political party was given preference by the government, and free access to the government-owned mass media was given in proportion to the percentage of that party's results in the previous election. The National Elections Board, which was autonomous, was responsible for electoral processes at the national and local levels.
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