Conflicts & War

Peru lawmakers again reject moving up elections

Lima, Feb 1 (EFE).- The Peruvian Congress voted down Wednesday yet another proposal for early general elections this year, the main demand put forward during weeks of anti-government protests that have left 65 people dead.

Last Friday, lawmakers rejected the original proposal from transitional President Dina Boluarte for a vote in 2023 to select a head of state and legislators to serve out the balance of the 2021-2026 term.

Congress elevated then-Vice President Boluarte to the presidency on Dec. 7 after removing elected leftist President Pedro Castillo on grounds of “permanent moral incapacity.”

The legislature, which had tried to impeach Castillo on two previous occasions, ousted him hours after he announced the dissolution of Congress in favor of early elections and convening a constitutional convention.

The text considered Wednesday, presented by rightist lawmaker Hernando Guerra Garcia, introduced a new element, mandating the termination of the terms of Boluarte and serving members of Congress on April 30, 2024.

On that date, the winners of the proposed December 2023 ballot would take office for a period of approximately 27 months, to be succeeded by those elected in the spring of 2026.

Guerra’s bill got support from his Fuerza Popular party, led by Keiko Fujimori, daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori and a three-time failed presidential candidate.

Two other conservative parties likewise backed the proposal, while leftist parties were joined by the far-right Renovacion Popular in voting “no.”

After the defeat of Guerra’s bill, Congress agreed to debate a proposal from Peru Libre, the self-proclaimed Marxist party that nominated Castillo as its presidential candidate in 2021.

The Peru Libre legislation for early elections includes a provision for a referendum on convening an assembly to draft a replacement for the constitution enacted under Alberto Fujimori in 1993.

That idea, which was part of Castillo’s agenda when he took office, has been another demand of the protesters, along with the immediate resignation of Boluarte, the country’s sixth president since 2016.

Speaking on behalf of the Peru Libre bill, congressman Jaime Quito Sarmiento said that the decision on whether to write a new constitution belongs to the voters.

Those who “consider themselves democrats must return power to the people,” he said.

The leader of the Peru Libre bloc in Congress, Flavio Cruz, said that the question facing the country is bigger than the timing of the next election.

“The problem in Peru is not conjunctural, it is structural,” he said, adding that the dramatic changes needed will come only with a new constitution.

Castillo, a schoolteacher and union activist with no prior political experience, shocked the Peruvian elite in 2021 when he reached the second round of the presidential election and went on to defeat Keiko Fujimori in the runoff.

Congress, dominated by Fujimori’s party, sought to undermine Castillo from the moment he took office on July 28, 2021. EFE csr-pbc/dr

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