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Approval of New Constitution Endorses Peru Leader’s Mandate - Narrowly

November 1, 1993

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ Peruvian voters’ approval of a new constitution has given President Alberto Fujimori a much-needed vote of confidence.

Fujimori suspended the old constitution, dissolved the legislature and seized special powers in April 1992, saying the moves were necessary to get control of the economy and put down a Maoist insurgency.

Exit polls by the country’s most respected polling firm, Apoyo, showed 52.9 percent of the vote Sunday was in favor of the new constitution, 47.1 percent against. Official results are not expected for a week.

Approval of the new constitution endorses the president’s mandate and restores legitimacy to the Fujimori government. It also allows him to run for re-election in 1995.

″Now we have the tools for progress, I have no doubt that Peru is going to become the center of development in Latin America,″ Fujimori said at a victory news conference.

But analysts said the narrow margin of vote reflected discontent with the government’s inability to make headway against a deep recession.

A last-minute bombing campaign by the Shining Path guerrillas also apparently cut into Fujimori’s support.

Others blamed the close vote on a high-profile and costly government campaign that turned off impoverished voters.

Critics accused Fujimori of using government funds to give away tractors, computers and livestock to rack up votes, and of pressuring mayors from opposition parties to join the campaign in exchange for financing.

″There were defects in the campaign, and perhaps some excesses,″ admitted Carlos Torres y Torres Lara, congressman for the governing majority.

But the main issue appeared to be Peru’s moribund economy, which is just beginning to come out of a recession after five years. The government has warned Peruvians cannot expect immediate results.

A privatization program has thrown tens of thousands out of work, and the elimination of subsidies has made millions poorer.

Still, the majority vote was seen as a vote of confidence in Fujimori, who has campaigned largely on the basis of his counterinsurgency successes.

Since grabbing his special powers, Fujimori scored a major victory in the eyes of his constituents with the capture of Abimael Guzman, leader of the Shining Path guerrillas who have terrorized the country for 13 years.

Army and police troop carriers patrolled Lima’s main streets, and helicopters clattered overhead Sunday to prevent rebel attacks. Early Sunday, the rebels dynamited a bank in Lima, causing damages but no casualties.

Bombings killed six people and wounded 60 more in the past 10 days, apparently to express rejection of peace talks proposed by Guzman, who is serving a life sentence in prison.

Fujimori has said he will not negotiate with Guzman unless he orders his followers to lay down their arms. Nearly 30,000 people have died in the insurgency.

Fujimori’s backers say the new constitution will now attract private investment and limits the role of the state to basic services such as education and health care, in keeping with the free market reforms sweeping the continent. It also includes the death penalty for terrorists.

Critics say the constitution cuts workers’ rights, limits free education and gives Fujimori too much power. He will now be able to run for immediate re-election, legally shut down Congress and single-handedly decide military and diplomatic appointments.

Update hourly