Conflict over the control of the Constitutional Tribunal

22 September 2019

On Monday 30 September 2019 Congress will vote to decide on the appointment of new members to the Constitutional Tribunal. This has become the latest contested space for Fujimoristas and their enemies. Currently out of the seven member court, four have consistently voted to oppose the majority in Congress and their opposition has been such that these Magistrates were under threat of being expelled. Congress has accused them of violating the constitution and they have only managed to remain in post due to the InterAmerican Court’s intervention. The situation now is more complicated as their period of tenure has expired and even though it has been usual for Magistrates to stay in post for longer than stipulated, the Fujimorista majority in Congress is hell-bent on electing their replacements because the Court is due to decide on several cases involving areas they want to control. One of these is the proposed habeas corpus for Keiko Fujimori, who remains on remand and who currently will still have to complete 18 months in prison, reduced from the initial 36 she was given.

The fight for the control of the Tribunal has become increasingly important as the conflict with the executive has continued to grow. Given the division of powers the Tribunal has the final say on constitutional issues. There is currently an appeal going through the system that seeks to cancel the agreement between the government and the disgraced Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, claiming it is unconstitutional. If this were to succeed, many of the advances of the investigation would stall and it is not certain if the process would even continue. According to journalist and lawyer Rosa María Palacios, the Fujimoristas are only interested in removing some of the six members of the Tribunal whose time has elapsed. The six were elected on the same day, so there are discussions as to who should be replaced first. Palacios believes that the current congress wants one of the magistrates to stay. As he always votes for the Fujimoristas, they could be open to retaining three justices, as the three do not always vote against them, but have decided that two have to be removed because they will be sure to vote against them. Even though only five votes are needed to decide on issues such as Keiko Fujimori’s habeas corpus, Palacios is convinced they want to have a unanimous vote.

During the coming week members of Congress will be in their constituencies and only those in the commission deciding on the candidates have been asked to stay behind and evaluate the eleven people who have been invited to participate in the process. Who was to be on that list was decided in a half-hour meeting on Friday 20 September, it seems in an attempt to stifle debate. It has already emerged that one of the candidates had close ties with disgraced Supreme Court Magistrate Cesar Hinostroza who is currently awaiting extradition from Spain. El Comercio has published the audios that clearly indicate that the candidate was part of his corruption network.

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