Politics in Peru; where do we stand now that Congress has been dissolved

Politics in Peru; where do we stand now that Congress has been dissolved

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As the Peruvian President does not have the global resonance of a Donald Trump, you may probably not have heard much about this but the last couple of weeks Peru has been undergoing an intense political crisis that few have seen before. The seeds of this crisis were planted dozens of years ago after the dictatorial tendencies of President Fujimori in the nineties got him to be arrested and the country slowly got caught in a cycle of corruption, nepotism and political scandals. First under President Alan Garcia who made his reappearance on national stage after Fujimori, then in the hands of Alejandro Toledo, followed by Ollanta Humala and finally Pedro Pablo Kuczynski who only got to govern for one year out of his 5 year term. From all the formerly mentioned presidents only one is not being held in prison now and that is Allan Garcia as he killed himself earlier this year in order to avoid prosecution.

These years of corruption left a huge scar with the Peruvian population who distrust anything that even slightly has to do with politics or even worse congress. Congress in Peru is a unicameral body that assumes the legislative power in Peru. Being a unicameral body, apart from the president there is little control over what and more importantly how congress does its business. After the last presidential elections the Fujimoristas, a party that backs the incarcerated ex-president Alberto Fujimori and is led by his daughter, who is also in prison, Keiko Fujimori, obtained a majority in congress and out of spite for losing the presidential elections from Kuczynski blocked every new initiative that came forward and only moved their own personal agenda of liberating Alberto Fujimori and making sure that they would remain in power by a huge network of nepotism and corruption. About half of the congress members for the Fujimoristas have serious judicial accusations against them going from human trafficking to drug related charges and wide scale corruption. Members of congress enjoy an immunity protecting them from being persecuted for these charges. When Kuczynski was elected president it therefore not take long for the Fujimoristas to stage a vote of confidence against the president for some dodgy connections with Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction company that is involved in a continent wide corruption scandal tumbling governments and politicians all over the continent. The first vote was lost due to some shady backroom deal between a dissident part of the Fujimori party that decided to change bands for a couple of minutes but the second vote shortly after was “successful” allowing for the president to be replaced by the vice president Martin Vizacara.

Martin Vizcara, even though not having the “democratic weight” of being elected president vowed to fight corruption but of course as congress was in the hands of the Fujimoristas there was only so much he could do. He called for a national popular (non-binding) referendum asking for the population to speak out on topics such as cancelling re-election for congress and making political funding much more transparent. The population voted in large numbers and hugely in favor of the changes proposed by the president leading to the official request of the president to implement these changes by congress. Congress, as they felt threatened (especially the Fujimori side), became unresponsive to the presidents requests and basically refused to move on these new legislation. According the Peruvian Constitution (even though this is still for the constitutional court to be ratified) after two presidential requests that are being denied by congress, the president has the right to dissolve congress, something President Vizcara did on September 30 this year. This was not accepted by Congress, some of which did not want to leave the building (they were in session at the time) and the constitutional court was called upon. The president’s decision was overwhelmingly accepted by the population and he was backed by the army and police. New elections have been programmed for January and till then the president can govern without a congress (or vice president who decided to back congress instead of the president). This can still change if the constitutional court come to another decision but this is unlikely. It may also be worth mentioning that when the president dissolved congress they were voting on new lifelong members for the constitutional court, Peru’s highest judicial entity, making sure that those voted for were forthcoming towards the needs of congress.

So what does this mean for the future of the country; in the next couple of months little can be done without congress to vote for new laws and legislation and once congress accepts that the new elections will be held in January they will all switch to election mode with a lot of populist promises in order to be able to hold their seat in congress (and their immunity in courts). The irony is that congress was dissolved over their refusal to prepare the law against re-election of congressmen and woman.  Therefore the most likely scenario will be that after the election in January, a large number of congressmen and women will be re-elected (populism is still strong in Peru) and depending on their majority will try to get rid of President Vizcara in their turn. Luckily there has not been any violence and there is little chance on this as the populñation in large numbers agree with the president's decisions. Therefore, most likely we will head for presidential elections next year, meaning that from 2021 everything will be business as usual with the same corrupt congress and a new president that has to dance to the tunes of the Fujimoristas. Therefore unfortunately it seems that in spite of all good intentions from Vizcara and the popular support, corruption will not be that easy to get rid of in Peruvian society. 

 

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