Vizcarra takes his referendum proposals to Congress

11 August 2018

President Vizcarra, with the proposals for referendums under his arm, walked from the Palace to Congress on 9 August personally to hand these on to the legislature. He asked the president of Congress, Fujimorista Daniel Salaverry, to debate them expeditiously so as to hold the referendum before the end of the year. 

The referendums will deal with four main issues: reform of the system by which members of the Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura (CNM) are selected; the re-introduction of a second chamber in Congress; reforms of the rules governing party finance; and revision of the system whereby members of Congress can be re-elected.

Vizcarra announced the holding of referendums in his speech to Congress on 28 July. Taking advantage of the corruption scandals in the judiciary, he sought to launch an appeal to the people over and above the heads of the Congress, dominated as it is by the Fujimorista opposition.

The president made clear the need for speed, suggesting 7 October as a propitious date on which to hold the referendums. This is the day on which Peruvians would anyway go to the polls to elect new presidents of regional governments as well as mayors of provinces and districts. This means that the referendums would have to be organised in less than two months, with Congress having little time in which to debate and approve them.

If 7 October proves impossible, a second date would be in the first week of December when the second round of voting would take place in those regions (probably in most) in which no presidential candidate won by a plurality on the first round.

Public opinion appears to favour Vizcarra’s reform proposals, and Vizcarra’s initiative poses problems for the Fujimorista majority in Congress which would probably lose out from changes in the political rules. Though FP may try to drag out the referendum, it will be very difficult not to approve the necessary legislation.

Vizcarra has succeeded in identifying himself with the impulse for reform; Keiko Fujimori, on the other hand is seen as the reluctant party. According to the Datum polling organisation, Fujimori’s approval rating fell from 21% in June to 14% in July, while Vizcarra’s rose from 39% to 49%.

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