Saavedra censured, train-crash postponed

18 December 2016

After much speculation that the censure of Education Minister Jaime Saavedra would result in a direct clash between the executive and the legislature, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski announced in a televised message on 13 December that he would not carry out the threat of seeking a vote of confidence in the cabinet as a whole in order to save the minister.

Kuczynski indicated that his desire was to govern and that the reform of education would continue regardless of whether the minister was censured or not. He also asked legislators to stop obstructing the government, as his only desire was to improve conditions in Peru.

Subsequently, on 15 December, Congress voted by 78 for, 0 against and 0 abstentions to censure Saavedra. Those voting for the motion were made up, primarily, by representatives of the Fuerza Popular (Fujimorista) benches and their allies in APRA. The motion passed unchallenged because the opposition abandoned the chamber in disgust.

Saavedra was obliged to give up his post by 19 December; as we went to press, Kuczynski was about to name a successor. Opinion polls show that Saavedra was the most popular member of the present government, and his role in improving educational standards in Peru in the last few years has been widely acknowledged.

Had a vote of confidence been denied, then the whole cabinet would have been forced to resign and a new one appointed. A new cabinet would have had to be approved by Congress in a second vote of confidence. If this had been denied, then Kuczynski would have been constitutionally empowered to dissolve Congress and call new legislative elections.

Several congressional representatives from Kuczynski’s Peruanos por el Kambio (PPK) bloc had urged the president to confront the Fujimoristas in the belief that these would simply continue to use their majority in Congress to harass the government.

Kenji Fujimori, the brother of Keiko and the congressman elected with the highest number of votes, notably chose not to attend the voting. This has fuelled further speculation of a split within Fuerza Popular.

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