Traincrash averted, at least for now

8 June 2019

On 5 June, after two days of debate, Congress gave its support to the cabinet led by Salvador del Solar and its programme of political reform. Congress will need to approve these reforms by the end of the current legislature which could feasibly be extended to 15 July.

A clear majority supported the vote of confidence: 77 in favour, 44 against and three abstentions.

The fujimorista bloc in Congress was divided on the issue, but the majority voted to avoid a possible dissolution. Had the vote gone the other way, President Martín Vizcarra would have been constitutionally empowered to dissolve Congress and call new elections.

Those opposing the vote of confidence included members from APRA, the Frente Amplio (FA) and Nuevo Perú, along with a minority of members from Fuerza Popular. The left – FA plus Nuevo Perú – support the government’s reform programme but wanted to provoke the closure of Congress and force new elections. The fujimoristas voting against included, among various diehards, Rosa Bartra, the current chair of the constitutional committee, whose actions did much to prompt the crisis in the first place.

The question now is what happens next. In principle, the Congress will need to approve the political reforms presented to it (five in total, two of which are reforms to the constitution) before the end of the legislature without distorting the bills’ main objectives. Otherwise, the dissolution will take place. In practice, it may not be so simple. Much will depend on the extent to which the Congress tries to modify the reform package and who judges whether such changes overstep the mark.

There is no doubt that the fujimoristas will be the main losers from the reforms if and when they are implemented. They will therefore want to introduce changes that may reduce the damage to their longer-term electoral prospects. Although they voted differently with respect to the vote of confidence, this does not necessarily behove a change in attitude to their otherwise antagonistic stance towards the Vizcarra administration. Some, led by Bartra, appear only too keen to exacerbate the contradictions so as to provoke the government into what might be construed as overstepping the constitutional mark. So watch this space!

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