September 27, 2019 / 6:59 PM / 2 months ago

Peru's Vizcarra calls for vote of confidence as political crisis escalates

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s centrist president, Martin Vizcarra, on Friday announced he would ask for a vote of confidence from the opposition-run Congress that would empower him to dismiss lawmakers if it is rejected.

Peru's President Martin Vizcarra addresses the nation, at the government palace in Lima, Peru September 27, 2019. Peruvian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

The move aims to end an acrimonious power struggle between the executive and Vizcarra’s government and could lead to a protracted constitutional crisis if lawmakers resist.

Under Peru’s constitution, presidents can dissolve Congress if the legislative body delivers two votes of no-confidence in his government or its proposed policies. The current Congress has already withdrawn its confidence in the government once.

But opposition lawmakers appeared undeterred by the prospect of a vote when they shelved Vizcarra’s proposal for a snap election on Thursday.

Vizcarra cannot run in the next general elections due to limits on consecutive terms. He said he wants an early end to the current presidential and congressional terms to end an impasse over his anti-graft reforms and to rebuild trust in voters following back-to-back graft scandals in recent years.

“It’s clear democracy is in jeopardy in our country, due to the congressional majority’s actions to take over institutions in order to guarantee impunity for itself,” Vizcarra said in a televised speech.

But instead of calling for a vote of confidence over his early-election plan, he said it would be presented over changes he said were needed regarding how Tribunal Court (TC) justices are appointed.

Congress plans to name six new justices out of seven up for reappointment on Monday, despite local news reports that their announced candidates have links to judges under investigation for influence-peddling.

The court is due to rule on the pretrial jail term for opposition leader Keiko Fujimori and may end up settling any dispute between Congress and the executive branch over the legality of next moves.

On Friday, a current TC justice said in an interview with local magazine “Hildebrandt en sus trece” that someone whom she did not identify had offered to reappoint her if she voted to free Fujimori, the daughter of imprisoned former authoritarian president Alberto Fujimori.

“This is corruption!” Vizcarra said about the news report.

Reporting by Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino in Lima; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis

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