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Peru - 2020 Parliament Election

Peru has a unicameral Congreso de la Republica del Peru (Congress of the Republic of Peru) composed of 130 seats with members serving 5-year terms. Members of Congress are directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representative vote.

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra dissolved the opposition-controlled Congress on 30 September 2019 and called new elections — escalating a bitter feud over what he has referred to as his fight to curb corruption. The stunning development came hours after the Fujimorist-dominated Congress pushed forward a vote to select an almost entirely new slate of magistrates to the Constitutional Tribunal over the objection of Vizcarra, who took office in 2018. These elections are taking place at a critical political juncture for Peru. It is the first time that anticipated elections are organised, in the context of heated institutional debates, including on anti-corruption reforms.

In a televised address, Vizcarra said that the constitution permitted his decision and that fresh elections were necessary to tackle graft. "It is clear that the obstruction and shielding do not stop and there will not be an agreement possible," he said. The embattled president said he would "seek to put an end to this era of political deadlock that has held Peru back from growing in proportion to its possibilities." He added that he hoped "this exceptional measure will permit the citizenry to finally express themselves and define, at the polls and through their participation, the future of our country." Vizcarra told the people of Peru that they are "making history — and this moment will be remembered by generations to come."

Later, opposition lawmakers, who largely come from the neoliberal nationalist Popular Force party, said Vizcarra had overstepped the bounds of the constitution and voted to suspend him on the grounds of his "permanent moral incapacity." They swore in Vice President Mercedes Araoz as his replacement, though the vote appears to have only symbolic value since Vizcarra dissolved the legislature.

About 24 hours after opposition lawmakers elevated Peruvian Vice President Mercedes Aráoz to the country's highest office — a move targeted squarely at the president with whom they are feuding — on October 2, 2019 Aráoz decided to bow out. The would-be interim president shuffled off the title, saying in a statement posted to Twitter that she was declining the job because "the constitutional order in Peru has broken down." Aráoz was denounced for the crime of usurpation of functions by two dismissed legislators who were in favor of the dissolution of Parliament. In Peru, the crime of usurpation of functions with up to seven years in prison is punished.

The brand new Peruvian Prime Minister announced that President Martín Vizcarra will govern until July 28, 2021 and will not resign as requested by the opposition, two days after the president dissolved the Parliament in the midst of the biggest political crisis of Peru in more than 25 years. Vizcarra called for new legislative elections in early 2020. But if congress prevails, lawmakers would be entitled to stay in their posts till 2021, calling off Vizcarra's elections and likely moving to impeach him. The legislators of the dissolved Parliament will not be able to run either in the 2020 legislative election or in the 2021 elections, when the successor of Vizcarra will also be elected.

Following the invitation of the Peruvian authorities, the European Union deployed an Election Observation Mission (EOM) to Peru to observe the anticipated congressional elections due to take place on 26 January 2020. Reflecting the EU's long-standing commitment to supporting credible, transparent and inclusive elections in Peru, the EU had previously deployed an EOM to the general elections in both 2011 and 2016.

Corruption investigations continued to plague Peru's politicians as the fallout from the Odebrecht scandal threatened to overshadow the upcoming legislative and presidential elections. Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant, sent ripples across Latin America in 2016 when it confessed to bribing officials in several countries in order to secure lucrative contracts.

Recently freed opposition leader Keiko Fujimori remained under investigation for corruption, casting doubt over whether she will be eligible to run in 2021's presidential election and dampening support for her Popular Force party ahead of the January 2020 legislative elections. "Keiko Fujimori has been the strongest political figure that we've had in the last few years," said Zoila Ponce de Leon, an assistant professor of politics at Washington Lee University. The fact that the Popular Force is now struggling to gain even a 10 percent approval rating in recent polls should be a major cause of concern for the opposition and could create a vacuum for a more extreme candidate, Ponce de Leon said.

Also hanging in the balance were anti-corruption measures President Martin Vizcarra had attempted to push through Congress before moving to dissolve it in October. Vizcarra will be hoping for a less hostile Congress following the January vote. Meanwhile, corruption investigations continue into former presidents Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo, as well as those implicated alongside former President Alan Garcia who killed himself to evade arrest in April 2019.

Peruvians headed to the polls on Sunday 26 January 2020 in the country's first legislative election to be held separately from a presidential ballot. President Martin Vizcarra was hoping his allies will garner strong enough support to end his struggle with the previous parliament over his proposed anti-corruption reforms. Voters in the capital Lima turned up in droves even hours before the doors opened, despite an atmosphere of disillusionment after Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht said it had bribed four previous presidents.

The new parliament will serve for only about a year until the next presidential vote, but President Vizcarra hoped that the party of disgraced opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, Popular Force, would lose seats after it spent months stymying his plan for sweeping new anti-graft measures. Popular Force held an absolute majority of 73 out of the 130 seats, but it was expected to take a major tumble as Fujimori awaited trial for allegedly accepting $1.2 million in illegal campaign contributions from Odebrecht. Fujimori's father, former president Alberto Fujimori, who had been convicted on multiple counts of corruption and human rights abuses and was currently serving a 25-year prison sentence.

Vizcarra became president in March 2018, having served as vice president under President Pedro Kuczynkski, who stepped down after videos leaked showing him allegedly in the act of vote-buying. Vizcarra was not aligned with any one political party and will have to form alliances in the new Congress in order to get his reforms passed.

The opposition's crushing defeat in Peru's legislative elections left a fragmented Congress without a dominant party -- but with a surprising newcomer threatening to become a serious player. Keiko Fujimori's Popular Force lost dozens of seats in the Congress it had dominated since 2016, shrinking from 73 out of 130 seats to an expected 16.

The Christian evangelical fundamentalist party Frepap is expected to have a larger representation as the fourth largest group with a projected 12 seats. Frepap's success is in part due to a transfer of votes from the collapse of Fujimorism. The vote share for Frepap, whose leaders wear long beards and flowing tunics in the style of Jesus, is part of Peru's significant protest vote.

Popular Force looks to have paid for its leader's implication in the sprawling Odebrecht corruption scandal. Fujimori was accused of accepting $1.2 million in illicit party funding from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht for her unsuccessful 2011 presidential election campaign. Odebrecht admitted to paying at least $29 million to Peruvian officials since 2004, and bribing four former Peruvian presidents. The scandal destroyed the popularity of the 44-year-old daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000). She spent 13 months in pre-trial detention before being released in November 2019.

The big winner was center-right President Martin Vizcarra, who dissolved parliament in September and called snap legislative elections in a bid to end a political crisis between the executive and Congress. His attempts to push through anti-corruption reforms had been repeatedly blocked by Popular Force. Vizcarra said he wants to establish with the new Congress "a responsible, mature relationship that seeks a consensus that benefits Peru." Vizcarra didn't have a party but with centrist parties in the ascendency, the president will achieve a more bearable relationship" with Congress than he had done with Fujimori.

With 60 percent of Sunday's votes counted, hardly any party has managed more than 10 percent. The center-right Popular Action party is expected to come out on top, with 24 seats. Another center-right party, Alliance for Progress, is next on 18 seats, with the nationalist Union for Peru on 17. The largest left-wing party, the Broad Front, is expected to come in joint fifth with the right-wing Popular Force on 12 seats. It has been an even worse election for Popular Force's main ally, the social-democratic APRA of former president Alan Garcia, who died by suicide in April as police arrived at his home to arrest him in a corruption case related to the Odebrecht scandal. APRA, Peru's oldest political party, is expected to lose all of its seats.

The new Congress will sit for only 16 months as a general election is already scheduled for April 2021.

Peru’s Congress on 11 September 2020 voted to open impeachment proceedings against President Martin Vizcarra for “moral incapacity” over accusations he tried to obstruct a corruption probe against government officials. The motion was approved by 65 votes, with 36 against and 24 abstentions. Fifty-two votes were required to open the proceedings early next week. To remove the president, who lacks a party, 87 votes are required. After Vizcarra appears in Congress next Friday to defend himself, the plenary will debate and vote. Six out of nine parties—representing 95 of the 130 seats in Congress—have backed the motion.

Peru's Congress ousted President Martin Vizcarra over allegations of corruption. Vizcarra allegedly received massive bribes from companies that won public works contracts between 2011 and 2014, when he was the governor of the southern region of Moquegua. Vizcarra denied the allegations, saying impeachment would be the worst action and worry the public. But Congress on 09 November 2020 voted to impeach him, with two-thirds support. Vizcarra took office in 2018 to succeed then-president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who resigned just before a vote to impeach him over alleged involvement in corruption. Vizcarra was his vice president. As president, Vizcarra was popular among the public for his anti-corruption campaign. But in Congress he clashed with opposition lawmakers, including those who had supported former president Alberto Fujimori. Vizcarra also faced a number of impeachment votes.

Peru will now have an interim president and, in April 2021, a presidential election. Keiko Fujimori, the eldest daughter of the former president, is expected to run.

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Page last modified: 06-06-2021 18:16:57 ZULU