Fujimoristas devise plans to thwart Vizcarra
16 September 2019
With time fast running out to find a solution to Peru’s constitutional gridlock over bringing forward the date for general elections from 2021 to next year, the opposition parties in Congress (led by the fujimorista Fuerza Popular (FP) party) are stepping up the tempo of their campaign to thwart President Martín Vizcarra’s proposal, first announced in his Independence Day speech on 28 July.
The opposition’s strategy seems to consist of a number of different lines of action whose ultimate objective appears to be to bring down the Vizcarra administration.
First, as we have mentioned previously, the strategy seems to be to string out the parliamentary procedures so as to make the president’s timetable for early elections unworkable. The ONPE, the organisation responsible for administering elections, last week suggested that the question of a referendum would need to be decided upon by the end of September, and that elections would need to be officially convened in November.
Headed by Rosa Bartra, a fujimorista stalwart, the congressional constitutional committee has made clear its reluctance to push forward speedily in drafting legislation that would enable the referendum to be held. Congress has further muddied the waters by inviting the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the European Union, to give an opinion on the legality of bringing forward elections, a tactic designed to string out the process still further.
Second, even if a bill is forthcoming from the constitution commission, it may well be defeated in the plenary of Congress. The pro-reform members of Congress could muster around 40 votes in Congress, not nearly enough to ensure passage. The anti-reform lobby, FP plus its allies, number some 80 members.
Thirdly, attempts by Vizcarra to pass the legislation by invoking a vote of confidence which (if refused) would enable him to dissolve Congress are likely to be challenged as to their constitutionality. The fujimorista majority in Congress is preparing plans to appoint up to six magistrates to the Constitutional Tribunal to replace those whose mandates have expired. This would lead to an almost complete overhaul of the membership of the TC. The special congressional committee charged with coming up with suitable names began its deliberations on 13 September. It has promised to move swiftly. https://larepublica.pe/politica/2019/09/14/eleccion-de-nuevos-magistrados-del-tribunal-constitucional-en-cuenta-regresiva-congreso-de-la-republica-comision-de-constitucion-martin-vizcarra-pedro-olaechea/
If all else fails, there remains little doubt that FP and some of its allies would like to vote out the president altogether. But it would require two-thirds of Congress to approve such a move, a number unlikely to materialise at least in present circumstances.
Lacking a powerbase in Congress, Vizcarra is weakly placed to parry these various initiatives emanating from the fujimorista benches. His strongest card is the appeal to public opinion which remains solidly behind the idea of ‘que se vayan todos’. Further attempts will be made to demonstrate this on the country’s streets in the next few weeks.