Time in the Peruvian Congress runs differently than on the street. In an impressive hemicycle of gold and yellow columns, the 130 congressmen sat down again this Tuesday to discuss the advancement of elections in Peru, which will finally be in April 2024, in a year and a half. Outside of there, the protests in the interior of the country continue two weeks after the fall of Pedro Castillo. Twenty-six people have already been killed in clashes with the police and the army. All far from Lima, the capital that manages the political, business and economic power of the country. The protesters demand the closure of Congress and new elections, but none of that will happen anytime soon. The congressmen rejected an opinion to celebrate them in December 2023 and have agreed on the most distant date. They will continue in their positions for another 20 months.
The text that the parliamentarians rejected last Friday proposed elections in December 2023, but only got 49 votes. This Tuesday they obtained 93 supports to do them in April 2024. They maintain that this is the shortest possible time to prepare a new electoral call. Among other reasons, beyond the legal deadlines, they allege that they need to make political reforms to reach elections with greater guarantees for citizens. This is how a right-wing congresswoman explains it: “It would be too irresponsible to close this Congress to give them the same conditions and to select a worse one than the one we are finalizing.” One worse than ours, he wanted to say.
The Peruvian Congress is the political institution worst valued by citizens. A month before Castillo publicly rehearsed a clumsy self-coup that has landed him in jail accused of rebellion, the president had more support among citizens than parliament. Many now wonder what legitimacy these congressmen have to carry out the electoral reforms they need the country to get out of the political crisis.
The legislative inactivity of the Congress has marked the last year and a half since the last elections. The Parliament was erected from the first day in the first counterweight of President Castillo and the battle between the two powers occupied the entire mandate of the rural teacher. He, who never achieved a stable government and was accumulating allegations of corruption, lived tormented by motions of censure. The afternoon that he announced the self-coup he had to face the third. For many of his followers, Castillo is just a victim of a corrupt Congress; for others, the president and parliamentarians are just as responsible for Peru’s latest political failure. “They are making fun of the people,” says Lizzy Díaz, who these days have taken to the streets of Lima to protest.
Political tension has continued to rise. The new president, Dina Boluarte, who took office with the idea of governing until 2026, when Castillo’s term was due to end, already calls his “transitional government.” Amid the protests and violence, Boluarte decreed a 30-day state of emergency and imposed a curfew in 15 regions. Deaths, especially among young people, have continued to grow. The president demanded the electoral advance from the congressmen, but she was not in her power to get it. “Don’t be blind,” she chided them this week.
If Peruvians go to the polls in April 2024, the new Congress and the president would take office in July of that year, 20 months from now. The political scientist Fernando Tuesta thinks that the congressmen have been forced to discuss the issue due to street pressure, but they do so “between interests and a resistance to not making the advance.” In Peru there is no re-election to Congress -or to any other institution- which forces the 130 parliamentarians to leave and explains, in part, their resistance to closing a mandate prematurely. But the clamor has been too loud. 83% of Peruvians want an advance, according to the latest survey by the Peruvian Institute of Economy.
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While the congressmen congratulated themselves for having reached an agreement, protests and roadblocks continue in various regions of the south from the country. Families have begun to bury their dead and are demanding justice. A delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) arrives in the country on Tuesday to analyze the social and political crisis. On the agenda is a visit to Ayacucho, where nine people died last Thursday in the violent repression by the Army. There, so far from Congress, the citizens again demanded this Tuesday the only idea that unites the country: “Let them all go.”