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Peru: Controversy Over Removal of Anonymity in Electoral Polls

With presidential elections in Peru getting ever closer, the political and social atmosphere has started to heat up. The election, held on April 10, has been causing a stir up and down the country with each new news item being hotly debated. This time, a new policy [es] by Peru’s National Jury of Elections (NJE), preventing opinion polls from being conducted anonymously, has caused a storm in the press and on social networking sites.

According to the law, private companies carrying out surveys and studies on voting opinion were to be legally obliged to hand over participants’ personal data, including name, national identity number and address to the National Jury of Elections.

This generated an immediate response both from polling companies and the press, in which they stated that the removal of confidentiality [es] from opinion polls was not only an attack on people’s rights [es] but could potentially produce skewed results. The law brought differing reactions from presidential candidates with those trailing in the polls [es], such as Ollanta Humala coming out in favour. They and sections of the press claim that the new act prevents polling companies from manipulating statistical data for their own means.

However, the candidate currently in first position [es], ex-president Alejandro Toledo, warned that the new legislation created conditions for candidates, in line with the government, to commit electoral fraud [es].

Edson Baldeón in his blog [es] states:

En todo caso, el que no se publiquen resultados de encuestas no creo que pongan en peligro la democracia, pero sí el solo hecho de que el JNE modifique sus reglas en medio de un proceso en marcha hace que los ciudadanos tengamos derecho a dudar de sus intenciones. Esto no parece democrático y algunos han afirmado que cambiar las reglas de juego en medio de un proceso electoral es propio de regímenes autoritarios

The fact that the survey results will not be published does not, in my opinion, put democracy at risk. However, the fact that the NJE has changed the rules when the electoral process is underway should make the public doubt its intentions. It does not appear democratic and people are saying that changing the rules of the game in the middle of an electoral process is a characteristic of authoritarian regimes.

The blog, En Busca del Tiempo Perdido [es], speaks about the cornerstone of democracy being the need to defend rights and liberties:

Aquellos que festejan este atropello a la libertad, son los que mañana podrían estar llorando porque les tocó vivir en carne propia el abuso de la burocracia estatal. Y es que acá todos piensan en función de sus propios intereses y nunca llegan a entender los principios democráticos que deberíamos respetar y hacer respetar todos como fundamento de nuestro país. Un país se construye con principios y no con intereses. La democracia es un conjunto de principios y no un conjunto de candidatos por los que hay que votar.

Those today that celebrate this trampling of our freedom, are those that may cry tomorrow because they will be living under an abusive bureaucratic state. Everyone here thinks in terms of their own interests and they have never understood the democratic principles that we should all respect and, in tern, make others respect. This should be something fundamental in our country. A country is built on principles and not personal interests. Democracy is a set of principles, it is not a set of candidates for whom we have to go out and vote for.

DenisDavid, in his blog, Psicosociales [es], raises the alarm about electoral fraud and calls for action to be taken:

si queremos que se respete la decisión del pueblo en este proceso electoral queda un par de acciones a tomar de manera inmediata: – Protestar para que se anule esta disposición del JNE y que se establezca, más bien, un margen tolerable de error que obligue a las encuestadoras a ser más precisas en sus estudios.  – Además, los partidos deben formar equipos para que auditen el sistema de conteo de votos del JNE, así como para supervisar permanentemente el acceso a los servidores de bases de datos donde se almacena la información

If we want the public’s decision, in this electoral process, to be respected then we must take the following actions immediately: Protest so that not only is this plan by the NJE is dropped but a reasonable margin of error is established, forcing polling companies to be more precise in their studies. Furthermore, parties should create teams to audit the NJE’s vote counting system, in that way, permanent supervision of state services to voter databases will be provided.

Pakirris, in the blog, Tu Balcón [es], notes the current difficulties in controlling the work of polling companies that reserve the right to protect citizens’ details.

El JNE debe buscar mecanismos de mayor regulación de las encuestadoras, tal vez escrutando sus procedimientos al máximo para validar la fidelidad de sus resultados, el tema es que no hay confianza en las instituciones y este es el fondo del asunto, no hay confianza en las encuestadoras, ni en el JNE, por ello se desconfia del resultado de las primeras y de la capacidad de guardar la confidencialidad de la información del segundo.

The NJE should look for better ways to regulate polling companies, perhaps subjecting their procedures to close scrutiny in order to validate the reliability of their results. The bottom line is that people do not trust the institutions, not polling companies nor the NJE. Because of this, people doubt the results of the primaries and the capacity of these institutions to keep details of the second round private.

Hugo Gómez in the blog, Respeto x Respeto, [es] protests:

El trasfondo de la medida es que hay interesados en que no hayan encuestas, así de simple… ¿Y quién no quiere las encuestas? Pues los que no salen favorecidos en ellas… Los que están arriba no cuestionan las encuestas, los que están abajo afirman que están compradas… Lo que olvida el JNE es que los ciudadanos tenemos derecho a votar por quien nos da la reverenda gana, y ello supone muchas cosas. Algunas, por ejemplo, a votar en contra. Sí, tenemos derecho a votar en contra, tenemos derecho a votar por el mal menor, tenemos derecho a votar por el que va segundo para evitar que gane el que va primero si consideramos a este es peor que el anterior. Y este derecho lo perdemos si no hay encuestas.

The background to this is that there are people interested in polls not being conducted, it’s that simple. And who does not want these polls carried out? Those who do not come out favourably in them. Those on top don’t question the polls and those who come out worse claim that those who come out best are bought. What the NJE has forgotten is that citizens have the right to vote for whomever they damn like, and that implies many things. For some it means voting against a candidate. Yes, we have the right to vote against just as we have the right to vote for the least bad option. We have the right to vote for the person in second place, preventing the candidate in first place from winning if we consider them the worst option. We lose this right if no polls are conducted.

Rolando Quenta (@RolandoQuesta) responds to the wife of the nationalist candidate, Ollanta Humala:

@NadineHeredia Si Ollanta estuviera 1ero en encuestas, diria: “Esta es una guerra sucia contra el nacionalismo”… :)

@NadineHeredia If Ollanta was first in the polls he would say, “This is a dirty war being fought against patriotism”…. :)

Whereas others, such as Fidel Quispe in the blog, Ultimo Informe [es], express their approval of the new act:

Le llegó el final a encuestadoras bambas [“falsas” en jerga peruana]

The end has arrived for false polling companies

Silvio Rendón (@rensilvio) has this to say on the matter:

Ha quedado evidenciado el desprestigio de las encuestadoras

People’s disregard for polling companies has been shown

Eleno Nole (@elenojesus) questions the morality of polling companies:

@claudiacisneros no seas inocente pe  [sic] claudia, bien sabes que las encuestas se manejan con dinero.

@claudiacisneros Don’t be so innocent, Claudia. You know very well that the polling companies are controlled by money.

Faced with a barrage of questions from the public and the press over its conduct, the NJE was forced to retract the law.

Walter Cier (@wcp87) observes:

Con declaraciones del presidente del JNE [Jurado Nacional de Elecciones], se nota que retrocedieron por el chongo [“bullicio” en jerga peruana), no porque recapacitaron.

From what the president of the NJE said, it is obvious that they withdrew the act not because they thought about their actions but because of all the noise it created.

Ernesto Quiñones (@ernestoq) regrets the change of heart:

estuvo bueno el lobby encuestadores + medios de comunicación para doblegar al jne, sin encuestas de que hablarían los medios si no

The survey taker’s lobby + the media did well in crushing the NJE, without the polls what would the media talk about?

César Cueva (@cesarcueva) seems to express conformity:

Guardemos las llantas, las molotov y el trago: ya no se exigirá a las encuestadoras entregar información personal de sus encuestados =)

Let’s keep our tires, bombs [for protesting] and booze under wraps: they are no longer going to ask survey companies to hand over the personal details of those taking the questionnaires =)

Francisco Narrea (@Narreasm) expresses some doubts:

@RPPNoticias En el Perú funciona la teoría del voto perdido, por eso las encuestas inducen al voto. Es que muchos tenemos flojera de pensar.

@RPPNoticias The concept of the lost vote exists in Peru, for this reason polling stations influence the vote. Many of us are simply too lazy to think.

Others such as Evely Juárez (@eve_juarezs) are happy:

:) Feliz, el JNE se dio cuenta de la barbaridad que estaba planteando.

:) Happy, the NJE has realised the atrocity it was committing.

As is Jason Delgado (@jasonodelgado):

Bien!! no se va a pedir DNI a los encuestados! viva la #democracia estoy #sorprendio alegremente sorprendio :)

Great!! They´re not going to ask for participans’ identity numbers! Long live #democracy I am #surprised, happily surprised :)

The conclusion, at first glance, is that this attempt to control the work of polling companies was not unanimously approved of, but it was also not ejected outright. It seems that public opinion is fairly divided on the matter. The root of the problem possibly lies with the deep levels of mistrust that Peruvians have for state institutions.

As Ernesto Carlin sums up (@tanquedecasma):

@rensilvio creo que hay consenso que se necesita cierto control a las encuestadoras, aunque lo propuesto no era lo más indicado

@rensilvio I believe there is a general consensus that polling companies need a certain degree of control, however the proposal by the NJE was not the best choice.

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