Wed, Dec 12, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Peruvians support major overhaul of government

‘PUNISHMENT’:Voters rejected a referendum proposal to reinstate a dual-chamber legislature, as that could have led to politicians extending their terms in office

AFP, LIMA

Shaken by a string of high-profile corruption scandals, Peruvians overwhelmingly approved a government overhaul that among other things sends all members of Peruvian Congress packing by mid-2021.

Three of the four constitutional reforms proposed by Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra were approved by nearly 80 percent of voters in a referendum on Sunday.

Sick of a do-nothing Congress with leading legislators tainted by corruption and scandal, 75 percent of voters approved a measure banning consecutive re-election, according to results released by the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE).

That means that all 130 members of Peru’s single-chamber legislature would be out of a job when their mandates end in July 2021.

Figures showed only 13 percent voted to retain lawmakers’ ability to seek re-election, the ONPE said.

Also approved were reforms on the way judges are chosen and tighter campaign financing laws that include criminal penalties for violators.

However, more than 81 percent of voters opposed a proposal to return Peru to a dual-chamber legislature — a sign of how disgusted voters are with the current crop of politicians.

Vizcarra initially supported the dual-chamber proposal, but later opposed it because it included limits on presidential authority.

The referendum results “are the start of a change that we are seeking for Peru and all Peruvians,” Vizcarra, 55, told a Cabinet meeting when the polls closed.

Peruvian Vice President Mercedes Araoz told Canal N television that the vote result was a “punishment” for Congress and that “all the social classes of the population” had shown how tired they were of politicians.

“With what political support and moral authority do we continue? We must self-dissolve and call new elections,” opposition lawmaker Victor Andres Garcia Belaunde tweeted.

More than 24 million Peruvians were eligible to vote in the referendum, called upon to mark a simple “Yes” or “No” to each proposal.

The vote is a powerful show of support for Vizcarra, a quiet and virtually unknown politician swept into office when then-Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was forced to resign in March.

Vizcarra harnessed public outrage to force Congress — controlled by supporters of Keiko Fujimori, Kuczynski’s nemesis — to allow the referendum.

In late October, Fujimori was taken into custody after a court ordered that she be held in preventive detention for three years pending the outcome of a money laundering probe linked to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

Peru’s past four presidents — Alejandro Toledo, Alan Garcia, Ollanta Humala and Kuczynski — have all been linked to illicit Odebrecht payments.

Humala and his wife were briefly jailed, while authorities are seeking the extradition of Toledo, who is in the US and charged with taking a US$20 million Odebrecht bribe.

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