As Peru explodes in protest and supporters of its former president take to the streets, lawmakers on Friday rejected a constitutional reform needed to hold snap general elections in 2023.
Calls for early presidential and general elections have increased since former President Pedro Castillo was ousted from power last week after trying to dissolve Congress and install an emergency government.
On Thursday, Castillo’s successor, President Dina Boluarte, urged Congress to “take the best options to shorten deadlines and achieve the necessary reforms” and to hold snap elections.
“This is where we all have to go: executive and legislature,” she said.
But only 49 MPs voted in favor of the amendment, 33 against and 25 abstentions, in a bid to speed up the electoral process, falling short of the 87 votes needed to pass the reform.
“Constitutional reform that changes the term of office of the president, first vice president, and congressmen elected in the 2021 election and sets the electoral process (and) general election in 2023 has not been approved,” announced Congress President Jose Williams.
A re-examination of the vote is now pending, Congress later announced on social media.
Castillo, a former teacher and union leader from rural Peru, will remain in pre-trial detention for 18 months, the country’s Supreme Court ordered Thursday as crowds of his supporters protested outside the courthouse and across the country.
At least 20 people have died in the riots and at least 340 people have been injured, the Ombudsman’s office said on Thursday. The ongoing protests have also stranded hundreds of tourists after Peru’s rail operator suspended trains to the region.
So far, however, the legislators have shown themselves to be resistant to change. “Unfortunately, they did not hear and understand the people’s demands and rejected early elections, so they have the right to remain in office until 2026,” Omar Cairo, a professor of constitutional law at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, told CNN.
The Peruvian legislature is already viewed with skepticism by the public. The president and members of Congress are not allowed to serve consecutive terms under Peruvian law, and critics have noted their lack of political experience.
A poll released by the IEP in September 2022 found that 84% of Peruvians disapproved of the Congress’ performance. Legislators are not only perceived in Congress as self-interest, but also associated with corrupt practices.