In the early hours of Friday morning (15 September), Peru’s Congress passed (77 for, 22 against and 16 abstentions) a vote of no-confidence in the cabinet of Fernando Zavala. This brings to a head a power struggle that has been building up since the day President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski took office and which now pits the executive against the legislature in open conflict.
Kuczynski will need to appoint a new cabinet within 72 hours of the vote, and that cabinet will need to win a vote of congressional confidence in the weeks that follow. If a second vote of no-confidence is passed, Kuczynski will have the constitutional right to dissolve Congress and order fresh legislative elections.
The vote of no-confidence followed the decision by the majority bloc of Fujimoristas to pass a motion of censure on the education minister, Marilú Martens, for her handling of the lengthy teachers’ strike. Having been forced to accept a motion of censure on her predecessor Jaime Saavedra last December, and having faced similar pressures that obliged Alfredo Thorne and Martín Vizcarra to resign the finance ministry and transport ministry respectively, Kuczynski appears to have had more than he can take from the Fujimorista harassment.
Whether or not Congress will approve of his new cabinet depends on whom he chooses to appoint as ministers. Zavala will go for sure but other ministers could be ratified in post.
Kuczynski may feel that he can no longer fight against the belligerence of the Fujimorista party, Fuerza Popular (FP) and appoint people to key posts acceptable it. He may, however, come to the conclusion that it is better to appoint a cabinet of people in whom he can trust and call the Fujimoristas’ bluff by inviting a second vote of no-confidence.
A key consideration is whether a new congressional election would simply increase the Fujimorista majority in Congress or not. According to Héctor Becerril, one of the most virulent Fujimoristas in Congress, FP has nothing to fear from a fresh election as it would result in the victory of “100 members of the orange party”. Currently FP has 71 members of Congress out of 130.