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  • Peru's President Martin Vizcarra addresses the nation, at the government palace in Lima, Peru September 27, 2019.

    Peru's President Martin Vizcarra addresses the nation, at the government palace in Lima, Peru September 27, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 September 2019

“President @MartinVizcarraC is announcing a coup d’etat,” said congressman Salvador Heresi. “He would go down in history as a dictator.”

The government of Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra made a last-minute appeal to Congress to halt the opposition’s plans to name new members of Peru’s top court Monday, a vote that Vizcarra warned would lead him to close Congress.

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Vizcarra said he was prepared to take what would be a drastic step under the constitution to keep lawmakers from appointing up to six out of seven justices in the Constitutional Tribunal (TC), a likely referee in any legal dispute between the government and Congress.

Opposition lawmakers say they will resist any attempt to dismiss them. They accuse Vizcarra of trying to orchestrate a power grab. 

“... We hope that reason and the interests of the country will triumph,” Prime Minister Salvador del Solar said as he walked to Congress to deliver a formal request for an “urgent” vote-of-confidence on the matter.

The power struggle between the executive and legislature has brought Peru’s young democracy to the brink of a constitutional crisis, threatening to grind lawmaking to a halt and potentially trigger unrest in one of Latin America’s most stable economies.

The sol currency opened down 0.35 percent against the dollar Monday. Late last week, it fell 1 percent as the market braced for an ugly political showdown.

Congress is scheduled to vote on proposed TC nominees early Monday and take up the vote-of-confidence request toward the end of the day, according to Peruvian media.

The opposition’s TC nominees have come under fire for having links to judges ensnared in one of several back-to-back corruption scandals that have discredited public institutions in recent years.

If lawmakers appoint the justices, Vizcarra said he would count it as a vote of no-confidence over the matter and would close Congress “in strict application of the constitution.”

Under Peru’s constitution, presidents can dissolve Congress to call new elections if the assembly delivers two votes of no-confidence in a government. The current Congress has already rejected a confidence vote once.

Some opposition lawmakers have vowed to physically resist any attempt to close Congress. They say the government cannot override Congress’ constitutional authority to appoint new members.

“President @MartinVizcarraC is announcing a coup d’etat,” said congressman Salvador Heresi. “He would go down in history as a dictator.”

Last week the Venice Commission, a panel of international constitutional lawyers, visited Peru to meet with lawmakers and government officials at the request of the opposition. But the commission said it would not take sides in the dispute.

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