Peru’s First Lady, Nadine Heredia, will not run for president its cabinet chief has affirmed, amid renewed speculation she may circumvent rules that bar her from succeeding her husband.
Opposition lawmakers allege the ruling party has consulted lawyers to find ways for her to overturn the constitution, and say her candidacy poses a threat to democracy.
Heredia (pictured right) is considered a lone candidate in the fragmented Nationalist party to replace President Ollanta Humala in 2016, and may be its best shot at winning back-to-back elections – something three successive governments have failed to do.
“The law is extremely clear: Nadine will not put herself forward in 2016,” cabinet chief, Ana Jara told El Comercio newspaper on Sunday.
The telegenic mother-of-three, 38, denied harboring presidential ambitions last year, though analysts say her influence has grown after appointing allies to top Congress positions last month.
Government congressman, Omar Chehade, said there were no obstacles preventing Heredia from running, while opposition politician, Javier Bedoya, said the government consulted lawyers to explore a bid for Peru’s highest office.
“When a government has two different messages, the doubt still remains,” said Juan Carlos Eguren, a member of the opposition Alliance for Progress bloc.
The so-called “marital reelection” is a major point of discussion in the Peruvian press and circumventing rules would constitute an abuse of power by the Executive.
Heredia remains consistently more popular than her former military officer husband, though the couple’s approval ratings have slid to 28 and 25 per cent respectively, according to an Ipsos Peru poll in July.
That’s down from 38 and 33 per cent on a year earlier.
Citigroup economist Jorge Pastrana said Heredia’s election was the Humala governent’s “most important political project” in a note to clients in June, as reported by Bloomberg.
Heredia’s selection of Ana Maria Solorzano as the government’s successful candidate for Congress president and the backing of Ana Jara as cabinet chief last month saw the splintering of the ruling party of which she has been president since December.
Six lawmakers resigned in protest and formed a new coalition, leaving the ruling with one more congressman than the largest opposition bloc.
“It has debilitated its strength in Congress,” said Henry Pease, a former president of Congress who is the head of the school of government and public policy at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru in Lima.
Former first ladies
Heredia has been often vocal in government policy, breaking protocol to oust the fourth cabinet chief of Humala’s government in March. But she is not the first Peruvian president’s spouse to make headlines.
Former President Alberto Fujimori’s ex-wife Susana Higuchi vied to run against him in the 1995 election before being disqualified for faking signatures supporting her candidacy.
Elsewhere on the continent, Cristina Fernandez succeeded her husband, Nestor Kirchner as president of Argentina in 2007, and Eva Peron ran political organisations during her husband Juan Peron’s government.