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Peru without Congress, directly towards a constitutional drift

In general, this means a transgression of the constitutional regulations, although here the public opinion plays an important role, as it hasn’t participated as expected. It does not want to support a Congress that since 2016 has only focused on its interests, ignoring important national and impacting matters, such as the Odebrecht case; people are not requesting the resignation of the president on the streets and has been perceived, constitutional or not, as support from the Peruvian people.

Read more: Crisis in Argentina: product of the trade war between China and the United States (in Spanish.)

The highlight of this decision was the motion of no-confidence that was linked to a reform proposed by the Congress opposing party to get control of the Constitutional Tribunal. However, the tip of the iceberg was the elections of 2016, when Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was elected as president with a minority of his party in Congress who faced an opposing majority of the Aprista Party, of Alberto Fujimori, and the Fuerza Popular party of Keiko Fujimori, (Fujimori’s daughter), currently in prison for money laundering. Since the moment of taking office there was a fierce opposition that ended in removing Kuczynski from office in 2018, but the quarreling continued until the end of the year.

Since 2016, Congress has been involved in corruption scandals, but the one has most marked more and remained in the minds of Peruvians has been the Odebrecht scandal, which involved not only politicians, businessmen, and government officials but, also had a direct relationship with four former Peruvian presidents, Alejandro Toledo, Alan García, Ollanta Humala, and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

They were all accused and some indicted for receiving kickbacks to favor this company in public work bids and in funding presidential campaigns.

This evolved to such a point that days before dissolving Congress, politicians were looking for a way to push the justice reform, to gain the majority and avoid a greater scandal given the accusations of the former director of Odebrecht in Peru, Jorge Barata, who will declare again and probably signal out more congressmen bribes of the Lava Jato case.

Congress triggered this extreme measure of the president as being the controlling party, there was no way to embark in real and sincere conversations.

Read more: Venezuela: two presidents and just one confusion? (in Spanish).

Was this measure constitutional?

The Political Constitution of 1993 grants the president the legal power to shut down congress, only if they provide a motion of non-confidence. However, days before the president requested Congress their support and a group of congressmen vowed their backing but with a series of additional conditions that were not accepted by Vizcarra. This was perceived by the president as a vote of non-confidence, the second, after the one provided in 2017 when the opposition headed by Keiko Fujimori denied their support vote to the president of the Council of Ministers, which ended with the resignation of the entire Ministerial Cabinet.

The dissolution signed by president Vizcarra on September 30 was not in line with the Constitution of 1993, which states that the president needs to present an accusation to Congress and it must be debated, which did not occur; hence there was no accusation and it passed directly to dissolution and declaration of vacancy, not fulfilling the regulations of the Peruvian Constitution.

The main fact is that until a new Congress is sworn in, an interim entity is in power that is not a controlling but an opinion entity of the measures taken by the president from the legislative point of view. Therefore, Vizcarra has the freedom of listening or simply disregarding these opinions.

What this crisis recalls

Different of what occurred on April 5 of 1992 when President Alberto Fujimori shut-down congress, there were closing of opposition media outlets, detained politicians, leaders and personalities which were not politicians such as the president of the Lima School of Lawyers, Raúl Ferrero Costa, who was harassed and imprisoned by people that supported the self- coup.

The fact that a President does a coup d'état to maintain power is a self-coup for sustaining power.

In 1992, Fujimori did not call for general elections, but Vizcarra has and he knows the Constitution prevents the immediate reelection of the president and he voted this measure before to avoid modification.

Before taking this decision Vizcarra approached Congress with a bill to impede congressmen reelection and this is another of the reasons why the Fujimorista opposition does not want him in office.

In practice, Congress is not operative and complying with the Constitution Vizcarra left a Permanent Commission in operation, which are 8 congressmen that continue to work.

Read more: Polarization hinders legitimacy building for justice (in Spanish.)

As mandated by law, being barred from Congress means former legislators are no longer entitled to have benefits such as automobiles, drivers, bodyguards, diplomatic passports or salaries. Proof of this is that several former congressmen tried to use their diplomatic passports to travel and had to use their regular passports as common citizens.

At first, the opposition and international media claimed that Peru could fall into a crisis such as that of Venezuela; however the country has not taken measures similar to those taken by the late Hugo Chávez such as closing opposition media outlets, persecuting and imprisoning politicians and people from the opposition. Although some have permission to enter Congress to participate in the Permanent Commission, for now, the situation is far from looking like the aforementioned country.

President Vizcarra has decided to wait and see how this evolves and calls on calm and to the conscious of Peruvians for the elections of 2020 that will elect 130 congressmen to finish his term until 2021.

For now, shutting down Congress has popular support, conditional or not. Proof of this is that there are no mobilizations against dissolving Congress.



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Consejo Editorial