Peru’s President Vizcarra in standoff with Congress

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra is facing a standoff with legislators over his call for a referendum on anti-corruption measures and has invoked a constitutional procedure that could end up dissolving the Congress. 

In a televised speech on Sunday night, President Martin Vizcarra ordered the opposition-dominated Congress to hold a special session Wednesday to debate his proposal.

If they block it in a no-confidence vote, Vizcarra will then be empowered by Peru’s constitution to dissolve Congress, something he has already threatened.

“Almost 40 days ago, we submitted [these initiatives] … with the expectation of working and fighting together against this endemic evil [corruption],” said Vizcarra.

“However, in this period of time, the Congress only elaborated a timetable, without understanding the urgency of a change.” 

Under Peru’s constitution, if Congress dismisses two cabinets formed by a single administration, the president can close Congress and call legislative elections.

The current Congress already dismissed the Cabinet formed under former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who Vizcarra replaced in March after serving as vice president.

“We hope history does not repeat itself after a year, when this Congress refused to renew its confidence in the Cabinet,” Vizcarra warned in the televised message, telling Peruvians he would make good on promises to fight corruption at any cost.

The president of the Congress, Daniel Salaverry, called for meeting on Monday to discuss the message of Vizcarra. 

Translation: Due to the announcement of the President of the Republic I am calling the Board of Spokespersons to meet tomorrow at 9am.

‘We will not be broken’ 

Kuczynski blamed his fall on Fujimori’s party and warned a week ago that Congress was aiming to overthrow the president again.

Opposition legislators denied the charge, saying Vizcarra’s proposed reforms are less urgent than other matters.

Vizcarra has proposed creating a new system for selecting judges and prosecutors, ending immediate re-election of legislators, creating a second chamber in Congress, and criminalising unreported campaign contributions.

In a recent Ipsos poll, 79 percent of Peruvians favour a petition including the changes in a referendum Vizcara wants during regional elections in December.

“I represent the widespread acclaim for reform now,” said Vizcarra. “We will not be broken.”

The escalation in tensions between the executive and legislative branches is starting a new period of political uncertainty in Peru, the world’s second-biggest copper producer and one of Latin America’s most stable economies.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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