Tue, Jul 30, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Peru president offers to shorten term

‘INSTITUTIONAL CRISIS’:Vizcarra’s call comes as Peru’s executive and legislative branches are locked in a power struggle over a proposal to lift legislative immunity

AFP, LIMA

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra on Sunday offered to cut short his term and hold elections to end what he called an institutional crisis.

He said in a speech to the Peruvian Congress that this would also involve shortening the term of the legislature.

As it stands, general elections are scheduled for July next year.

Vizcarra’s proposal comes with Peru’s executive and legislative branches locked in a massive power struggle.

The president said that his idea would need to be passed by the opposition-controlled legislature, and then approved in a referendum.

“The voice of the people must be heard,” Vizcarra told lawmakers, as some cheered him and others yelled insults, in a session on Peru’sIndependence Day.

“Peru is screaming out for a new beginning,” Vizcarra said.

If Congress agrees to the president’s proposal, the referendum would be held at the end of the year and the elections “on the second Sunday of April 2020,” Peruvian Minister of Justice Vicente Zeballos said.

Shaken by a string of high-profile corruption scandals, Peruvians overwhelmingly approved Vizcarra’s anti-corruption reforms in a referendum in December last year, but he has repeatedly clashed with Congress, which is dominated by the Popular Force party led by Keiko Fujimori, who is herself in prison pending trial on corruption charges linked to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

Vizcarra had originally threatened to dissolve Congress and force new legislative elections in June, unless lawmakers backed his anti-graft proposals.

He won a vote of confidence in Congress at the time, and the government was expected to begin negotiations with the opposition over introducing the reforms.

The reforms ranged from campaign finance, to limiting immunity from prosecution that lawmakers enjoy, and blocking those convicted in court from seeking office, as the South American nation of 33 million sought to emerge from the shadow of Latin America’s biggest graft scandal.

The proposal to lift legislative immunity turned into the source of the latest conflict between Peru’s executive and legislative branches; Vizcarra proposed giving the Peruvian Supreme Court power to decide whether to strip a legislator of the protection.

Congress, which holds the power to lift judicial immunity, rejected the idea.

Vizcarra’s proposal to move up elections was met with praise from businesses and analysts, as well as leftist members of Congress, but his opponents accused him of creating too much uncertainty in the government.

“The president is looking to shake up Congress, because there has been no improvement in investment or development in the country,” said Cecilia Chacon, a Fujimori-allied lawmaker.

“The president has nothing to show the people, so he has created a media show to keep getting air time,” she said.

Under Peru’s constitution, Vizcarra cannot run in the next election.

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