Page/12 in Peru
Tension and uncertainty marked the day yesterday Monday in Lima. While the popular protests and the road blockades that began in December demanding the resignation of President Dina Boluarte and elections this year continue, Congress was supposed to debate and vote on Monday the advancement of the elections for October of this year. But at the end of the afternoon the suspension of the debate was announced before starting it. After several hours of tense negotiations behind closed doors between the legislators to seek a consensus that would allow the debate to reach a position with the option of being approved, it was decided to suspend the vote until today, Tuesday., the day that a new anti-government mobilization has been called in the streets of Lima. Negotiations continued on Monday night.
Harassed by the protests and complaints about dozens of deaths caused by the repression, Boluarte gave a message on Sunday night supporting the advancement of elections to 2023. And she called on Congress to approve it. It was a shift in the position of the government, which backed elections in April 2024, as approved by Congress in the first vote last December. This was a first preview of the electoral schedule initially set for the year 2026, which was pending ratification in a second vote.
“We are going all”
The new debate for the elections to be held this year leaves that first vote without effect. With the streets on fire demanding his resignation, Boluarte seeks the least traumatic way out for his questioned presidency. “We are all leaving,” he told Congress when asking for the approval of elections for this year. Many in Congress don’t want to leave, or stay until at least next year.
In another twist, Boluarte announced a bill for the Congress that comes out of the new elections to make a “total change” to the current Constitution. It is a nod to the left that demands to change the Constitution that comes from the dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori, clearly neoliberal in nature. It is a future promise of a constitutional change that, however, it is not certain that it will be fulfilled in the next Parliament. A sector of the left conditions its support to early elections, to a referendum for a Constituent Assembly. The right defends the Fujimori Constitution en bloc. A survey by the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP) reveals that 69 percent support a Constituent Assembly.
Boluarte does not resign
The president pointed out in her message that if Congress does not approve the advancement of elections to October, the Executive would present a bill with that same proposal. This is a statement that is more gimmicky than effective, because if that were the case, it would mean repeating for the third time a vote that would have already been rejected twice. The president put all the responsibility for the advancement of elections in Congress. She ignored the alternative of her resignation to force elections this year. Her resignation would force them to be summoned within a maximum period of six months. It would be the best and fastest solution to the crisis. She would calm the massive protests and in a few months there would be early elections, without this decision having to go through a Congress in which there is reluctance to approve them. But Boluarte refuses to give up. Meanwhile, the country continues to bleed to death from government repression.
“Boluarte. How many more deaths for you to resign?”, reads the posters that go up in the mobilizations. So far in the protests, 58 people have died, 47 of them due to repression by the security forces, 46 due to police and military shots, and one due to a tear gas canister to the head.a. This latest death occurred on Saturday in Lima, the first in the capital. In his message, Boluarte did not mention that death or any other. On the contrary, he returned to support the repression and criminalize the protests, words that further ignite popular indignation.
botched decisive session
Yesterday’s parliamentary session, considered decisive and then frustrated, began before noon. It was all very close to falling down fast. First, the reconsideration of the vote on Friday that rejected the advancement of the elections to October of this year had to be voted, in order to open a new debate and a new vote. On Friday the early elections were rejected with 65 votes against and 45 in favor. The reconsideration to debate the issue again was approved with 66 votes, the minimum necessary to reopen the debate. There were 49 against and six abstentions. Those 66 votes were far from the 87 needed to approve the early elections. And nothing guaranteed that all those who voted to reopen the debate would also do so in favor of elections this year. In this scenario, it was decided to suspend the debate to open a negotiation.
The negotiation went on for several hours, leaving in evidence the problems to reach an agreement. After six hours between spokesmen for the benches there was no agreement and at the end of the afternoon the suspension of the debate was announced.
The elections for October have been defended since the beginning of the crisis by the progressive left of Cambio Democrático – Juntos por el Perú (CD-JP), which has been joined by Fujimorismo after changing its initial position. Street pressure and a political calculation would explain this turn.
Various groups ranging from the center right to the extreme right have the elections in April 2024 as a priority. They argue that political reforms must be carried out before the elections, which aim to seek a better position and control the electoral bodies.
Pedro Castillo’s party
The Peru Libre (PL) party with which Castillo won the elections, and groups made up of PL dissidents — the Bloque Magisterial (BM) — condition their support to early elections on the approval of a referendum for a Constituent Assembly. He has revealed that during the arduous negotiations on Monday, legislators from this bloc have left open the possibility of lifting that condition.
One of the far-right parties, Renovación Popular (RP), opposes any progress: it proposes to keep the elections until 2026. Its legislators pointed out that the response to the popular rejection of elections only in 2026 should be more repression.
If the early elections are approved today, Tuesday, it must also be ratified by a minimum of 87 votes in a second ballot. If those votes are not reached, but the support of a simple majority of all congressmen is achieved, that result would have to be ratified in a referendum. If the advance of the elections does not pass in Congress, the only alternative would be Boluarte’s resignation, or his removal by Congress –an option raised by the left but which would not have the votes– to force elections in a few months. .