Peru's president calls for early general elections to end institutional crisis

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-29 14:13:04|Editor: Li Xia
Video PlayerClose

LIMA, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra on Sunday proposed early general elections as a way to overcome an impasse over reforms.

The proposal to advance the elections from 2021 to 2020 came after the opposition-controlled congress only agreed to pass a watered-down anti-corruption reform package.

The president has clashed with the congress repeatedly. Media reported that he had threatened to dissolve the congress and force new legislative elections in June so as to push through his reforms.

Following a string of scandals that have undermined public trust in the government, Peruvians approved in a referendum last December Vizcarra's reforms, which aim to curb rampant corruption in government.

The reforms consist of barring corrupt politicians from running for public offices, more campaign finance controls, greater power for the judiciary to strip legislators of immunity if suspected of graft, higher grassroots participation in political parties, and the promotion of gender equality.

"Taking into account that the trust requested for the reforms has been approved only in words and denied in facts, I have decided, as a consequence, to once again put the interests of Peru above all," Vizcarra said in a nationwide address marking the country's Independence Day.

"I propose a way out of this institutional crisis. I present the congress a constitutional reform for the calling of early general elections, which implies cutting the congressional mandate to July 28, 2020," he added.

Acknowledging that early general elections would also shorten his presidential mandate, Vizcarra said that "with this action, the foundations of our republic will be reinforced, even if it means we must all go."

The initiative is to be put to a referendum so Peruvians can have a direct say in the matter, he said.

"The voice of the people has to be heard, that is why this constitutional reform (on the general elections) must be ratified via a referendum," said Vizcarra.

"I am making this request within the framework of, and with infinite respect for, Peru's political constitution," added Vizcarra.

Lawmakers of the majority opposition Popular Force party, led by failed presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori, could be heard yelling their protests as the president delivered his speech.

"Let's recover the people's trust and show the country that everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, is united in the fight against corruption," said the president.

However, most Peruvians believe lawmakers have no interest in passing reforms that strengthen anti-corruption laws.

The congress initially signalled it would pass the reforms, granting Vizcarra's government and its anti-graft project a confidence vote on June 5.

However, when the package was debated, legislators introduced changes to weaken the bill.

The president's proposal to hold early general elections was met with objection from leaders of the congress who said that the legislature would defend the institutional framework of the five-year term.