Call for Blank Vote Is Irresponsible, Bishop Warns

Fears It Could Hurt Peru´s Stability

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LIMA, Peru, APR. 27, 2001 ( A call for Peruvian voters to submit blank votes in the upcoming national elections is «irresponsible,» says the president of the bishops´ conference.

In statements to the broadcasting station Radio Programas del Peru, Bishop Luis Bambarén of Chimbote was reacting to an appeal made by two journalists to the electorate.

Alvaro Vargas Llosa and Jaime Bayly are urging the blank votes because they believe that neither of the two presidential candidates is ethical.

Alejandro Toledo was the top vote-getter in the April 8 election but failed to win the 50% majority required for outright victory. He faces former President Alan García in a runoff election, probably in May.

Vargas Llosa, a former adviser to Stanford-educated Toledo, appeared on a television program last Saturday, hosted by Bayly, to say that he was «profoundly disappointed» in Toledo. He urged a blank vote, saying that both candidates were inept and corrupt.

Bishop Bambarén said such an appeal is «highly irresponsible.»

«In the first place, the free decision of each must be respected,» the bishop said. «Votes should not be induced, much less so if they are going to be invalidated.»

«If they undertake such a campaign, what investor will bring his capital here with confidence?» he asked. «If there are no investments, not only will the recession continue, but the expectations of our people» will be dashed, he said.

The appeal might also hurt the democratic process in Peru, the bishop warned. «It has cost us so much to get out of the situation that, thank God, we are overcoming,» he said, referring to the scandal that ended with former President Alberto Fujimori´s resignation.

The bishop said the real challenge is not in discrediting the candidates but in «the moral regeneration of our homeland and the restoration of the state of law» — something that is not achieved by «promoting and encouraging an invalid or blank vote.»

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