Uncertainty Reaches Peru Amid Institutional Crisis
Peru entered days of institutional uncertainty this week as a constitutional crisis broke out. President Martín Vizcarra dissolved Congress on Monday, September 30, upon Congress’ failure to vote in confidence for the administration. However, this was moments before the legislature voted to suspend President Vizcarra on accounts of constitutional overreach.
The Peruvian constitution allows presidents to dissolve Congress and call for elections if the Congress fails twice to give the administration a vote of confidence. Since Congress first denied it to Pedro Pablo Kuczynsky, the President elected in 2016 to whom Vizcarra served as Vice President, a denial of confidence on Vizcarra’s cabinet gave him the constitutional right to dissolve Congress.
Upon President Vizcarra’s supposed suspension, Congress moved to recognize Vice President Mercedez Aráoz as President of the country, further escalating the country’s uncertainty. For all of Tuesday, Peru had two presidents; Aráoz recognized by the legislative branch, while Vizcarra was recognized by the Armed Forces, National Police, and the majority of Peruvians. With uncertainty in the air, Congress called for the Organization of American States (OAS) to invoke the Democratic Charter and help oversee elections. However, the OAS ruled that the legality of President Vizcarra’s actions remains up to the country’s Constitutional Tribunal, over which tensions escalated in the first place.
The Guardian reported that according to Vizcarra, the catalyst was “Congress’ appointment on Monday of a new member to the top court, the constitutional tribunal, which would be the likely referee in a legal dispute between Congress and the government.” Out of the seven potential nominees, six were tied-up with corruption scandals.
By Tuesday night, Aráoz had resigned from the Vice Presidency and Interim presidency on a Tweet.
The main opposition to the dissolution came from the actual Congress, specifically right-wing congress who refused to leave the building in a show of resistance to the President on Monday night. Accusing him of being a “dictator,” Congress did not recognize President Vizcarra’s authority or legitimacy as leader of the country.
Despite the abrasive measures, the Peruvian public has largely supported President Vizcarra’s decision to dissolve Congress. Fed up with the high rates of corruption, current opinion polls show that Peruvians are behind the president. Demonstrators agitated outside Congress doors in support of the President’s actions, many with signs encouraging the dissolution.
Peru has not seen such a level of political instability since Alberto Fujimori’s self-coup and the re-establishment of democracy at the turn of the century. With the backing of the military, Fujimori dissolved Congress, suspended civil liberties, and started ruling by decree. Fujimori then went on to commit multiple violations of human rights and liberties, and was eventually arrested on corruption charges and human rights violations in 2005. His daughter, Keiko Fujimori, became the leader of the Fujimorista party Fuerza Popular (Popular Force) and ran for the presidency in 2016 against Pedro Pablo Kuczynsky. Kuzcynski was elected president and was in office until March of 2013, when he resigned from office amid corruption scandals with Brasilian firm Odebrecht.
Peru’s recent political history is filled with corruption; the last 4 Presidents of the nation all have been charged with corruption charges and at least two of them are in jail.
Due to the term limits established in the Constitution, Vizcarra cannot run for re-election in the 2021 Presidential elections. With no viable option for Vizcarra, and opposition leader Keiko Fujimori in pre-trial detention on corruption charges, analysts say the election of anti-establishment candidates is even more likely.
There is a calm after the storm on Peruvian politics, and Parliamentary elections are scheduled for January 26, 2020. Until then, a caretaker commission of 27 lawmakers headed by the President of the Congress Paulo Olachea will preside over national policies. President Vizcarra swore in his new ministerial cabinet this Thursday afternoon.