Peru's Vizcarra proposes early elections, opposition cries foul

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra on Sunday proposed ending the legislative and presidential terms of office a year earlier than scheduled and holding elections in 2020 in the face of opposition to his efforts to pass anti-corruption measures.

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Opposition lawmakers immediately condemned the proposal, saying it created uncertainty and fueled political conflict.

In his traditional independence day holiday speech, Vizcarra said the proposal will be presented to Congress and must be ratified in a referendum.

“I present to Congress a constitutional reform for the advancement of general elections, which implies cutting the congressional and presidential term to July 28, 2020,” he said.

Pedro Olaechea, leader of the opposition-controlled Congress, said the legislature would defend the institutional framework of the five-year term.

“We do not aim to hold on to our positions, but to defend the institution and the legislative power,” Olaechea said.

In June, Peru’s government won a confidence vote that Vizcarra asked for as part of his effort to pressure the legislature into approving a reform package that includes measures aimed at cleaning up campaign financing and curbing lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution.

“Our bill proposed that another independent body be responsible for determining whether congressmen may or may not be tried and detained. Where is the confidence that Congress has supposedly granted us to work on anti-corruption policy?” Vizcarra said.

Vizcarra said in his address that many people had told him during his travels through Peru in the last year that they do not feel represented by Congress and asked him to shut it down.

Parties that expressed opposition to the proposal included the right-wing Popular Force party, whose leader, Keiko Fujimori, has been detained in an investigation into alleged corruption.

Lawmakers who support Vizcarra’s government and some independents expressed approval of the idea, however.

A business-friendly former vice president, Vizcarra took office a little over a year ago after his predecessor resigned in disgrace - one of several politicians entangled in a bribery probe involving Brazilian builder Odebrecht.

Reporting by Marco Aquino; writing by Cassandra Garrison; editing by Chris Reese and Sonya Hepinstall