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Published 5 September 2019
Opinion

Some 75% of polled Peruvians want a referendum to decide if general elections will be held next April, but the administration needs approval from the oppositional Congress.

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra announced in late July he wanted to push ahead national general elections, but he still needs approval from an oppositional Congress for a public referendum regarding the change. 

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Peru President Vizcarra Calls Early Elections for 2020

Speaking in front of Congress, Justice Minister Vicente Zeballos said Wednesday that the Vizcarra administration hopes the public will be able to vote by late November or early December on whether or not to hold elections next April. However, the administration still needs congressional approval from the majority opposition lawmakers. 

Peruvians would regularly vote for the 130 national legislators and the presidency in 2021, but a recent Ipsos poll found that at least 75 percent of the population would prefer to vote by April of next year. 

"We propose that the … president, vice president, (and) congress members complete their functions in July 2020," said Zeballos after clarifying to lawmakers Sept. 5 that current president, Martin Vizcarra, would not be allowed to run in the polls. The minister went on to say that the executive proposes that the elections be held the third Sunday of April in order to avoid them  falling on the Catholic Holy Week.

Zeballos and the nation’s chief of staff, Salvador del Solar, both appeared before Congress proposing to hold any necessary second rounds of elections in June in order for the newly elected to be inaugurated on July 28, 2020 for their respective five year terms.

Del Solar told Congress that moving up the general elections "is a call to acknowledge that the corruption crisis we are going through is too big,” reiterating the president’s reasons for the advanced elections. 

During his July 28 speech to the nation announcing the referendum proposal, Vizcarra said he wanted to change the electoral year to “recover the people’s trust and show the country that everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, is united in the fight against corruption. The voice of the people has to be heard.”  

The move came just after Congress approved four of the head of state’s six constitutional measures meant to curb corruption that included criminalizing illegal campaign financing, creating gender parity in party electoral lists, and giving the Supreme Court the power to declare congressional immunity, and taking it away from Congress. Experts say Vizcarra wants to 'shake down' a highly unpopular and corrupt Congress. 

The president's measures were initially proposed to fight Peru’s systemic and profound political corruption that began to be revealed two years ago with an  investigation into alleged bribes taken by Peruvian politician, four of whom are former presidents, from the Brazilian company Odebrecht in exchange for public development projects. Along the way, the government has called a state of emergency over the nation’s judicial system for its rampant corruption that involves the now-former attorney general who is linked to protecting Keiko Fujimori, opposition congresswoman under investigation for receiving over US$1 million from Odebrecht to fund her 2013 campaign.

Del Solar said that the executive and Congress have been “highly polarized" since the 2016 elections that brought in an "overwhelming opposition majority."

"We are not facing a mere case of difficult political coexistence. We are in a polarization scenario. We are facing an exceptionally severe crisis of trust," said the chief of staff.

While the measure has been opposed by the majority legislators, the left-leaning parties, Frente Amplio and Nuevo Peru, whose leader, Veronika Mendoza, is organizing a ‘Get Put’ campaign to promote the referendum. 

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