As Peru explodes in protest with supporters of its former president taking to streets, lawmakers on Friday rejected a constitutional reform that is needed to hold early general elections in 2023.
Calls for early presidential and parliamentary elections have mounted since former President Pedro Castillo was ousted from power last week after he attempted to dissolve Congress and install an emergency government.
On Thursday, Castillo’s successor, President Dina Boluarte, had asked Congress “to take the best options to reduce deadlines and achieve the needed reforms” hold early elections.
“Here all of us will need to go: executive and legislative,” she said.
But only 49 lawmakers voted in favor of the change to accelerate the elections process, with 33 against and 25 abstentions, failing to reach the 87 votes needed for the reform to pass.
“The constitutional reform that modifies the duration of the mandate for president, first vice president and congressmen elected during the 2021 elections and establishes the electoral process (and) general elections in 2023 has not been approved,” Congress President Jose Williams announced.
A reconsideration of vote is now pending, Congress later said on social media.
Castillo, a former teacher and union leader from rural Peru, will remain in pretrial detention for 18 months, the country’s Supreme Court ordered on Thursday, as crowds of his supporters protested outside the courthouse and around the country.
At least 20 people have died in the unrest and at least 340 people have been injured, according to the Ombudsman office on Thursday. The ongoing protests have also stranded hundreds of tourists after Peru’s railway operator suspended trains to the area.
So far however, lawmakers have appeared resistant to change. “Unfortunately, they haven’t heard and understood the people’s demands and they have rejected early elections, therefore they have the right to stay in the job until 2026,” Omar Cairo, professor of constitutional law at Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, told CNN.
Peru’s legislative body is already viewed with skepticism by the public. The president and members of congress are not allowed to have consecutive terms, according to Peruvian law, and critics have noted their lack of political experience.
A poll published September 2022 by IEP showed 84% of Peruvians disapproved congress’s performance. Lawmakers are perceived not only as pursuing their own interests in Congress, but are also associated with corrupt practices.