Peru’s Congress approved a constitutional reform on Tuesday that would allow a two-year general election to be brought forward to April 2024 amid protests over the ouster and arrest of former leftist President Pedro Castillo.
The reform proposal was approved by 93 votes in favor, 30 against and one abstention, and now Congress will have to hold a second vote on a date yet to be defined to definitively endorse the early elections.
The minimum vote to give the green light to a constitutional reform, and to be able to call an election to elect a president and a new Congress, is at least 87 votes, two-thirds of the members of parliament.
The opposition-dominated Congress had rejected last week the possibility of holding early elections, but on Tuesday decided to reconsider the initiative proposed by the new president Dina Boluarte upon taking office.
Boluarte took office on December 7 following the expulsion and arrest of Castillo, who illegally tried to dissolve Congress and reorganize the judicial system.
After taking office, Peru was rocked by violent protests in several regions of the country, which have left at least 21 dead in clashes with security forces, while six more were reported dead in incidents related to roadblocks, according to authorities.
In the protests, demonstrators are demanding immediate elections and the closure of Congress, and others are also calling for Castillo’s freedom and the resignation of President Boluarte.
Mostly leftist lawmakers opposed the proposal to advance elections because they wanted it to also include the creation of a constituent assembly, an idea that has been rejected by President Boluarte.
The constituent assembly has been a desire of leftist parties for many years, seeking to change the current Constitution – in force since 1993 and favorable to a free market economy – to give a more active role to the state.
Earlier, the president of Peru’s National Jury of Elections, Jorge Salas, had stated that sacrificing important prerequisites could lead to a general election in a shorter timeframe, at the end of 2023.
“The electoral system is able to take on this challenge, despite the difficulties it entails, in order to support the collective task of sowing peace,” he said.
Meanwhile, the situation of former President Castillo generated a regional diplomatic crisis after the Government declared the Mexican ambassador in Lima persona non grata and gave him 72 hours to leave the Andean nation in the face of constant “interference” in the internal affairs of the country.
Following the announcement, the Mexican government instructed its ambassador in Lima to return to the country. The Foreign Ministry added that the Mexican mission in Peru will continue to operate normally.
Mexico had earlier said it had granted political asylum to former President Castillo’s family at the Mexican embassy in Lima. Castillo has two younger children and has lived with one of his sisters-in-law who he considers “his daughter.”
The former president is in preventive detention for 18 months while he is investigated for rebellion, a crime he denies.
Peruvian police and armed forces have been accused by human rights groups of using deadly firearms and dropping smoke bombs from helicopters. The military says, however, that protesters, mostly in southern Peru, have used homemade weapons and explosives.
Although the new crisis has not hit the local currency dramatically, there are fears that the protests, the worst in many years in the Andean country, threaten to destabilize Peru’s economic and political stability and damage investor confidence in the second-largest producer of the country. copper of the world.