1. What triggered all this?
Vizcarra came to power in 2018 when his predecessor, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, resigned one day before a planned impeachment vote. As president, Vizcarra has laid out proposals to clean up political and judicial institutions against a backdrop of many political parties and their leaders being implicated in the continent-wide bribery scandal known as Carwash. The latest flash point was over corruption and the country’s Constitutional Court. Vizcarra asked Congress to halt the election of justices to the court, which he said had been tainted by corruption allegations.
2. Does Vizcarra have the right to dissolve Congress?
Yes, in some circumstances. The country’s constitution allows the president to dissolve the unicameral parliament if two of his cabinet chiefs lose votes of confidence. The government had lost one of those votes in 2017. On Sept. 30, cabinet chief Salvador del Solar addressed lawmakers and asked them to hold a confidence vote on the government proposal to make the selection of Constitutional Court justices more transparent. Instead, Congress proceeded with a vote on the first two candidates. Vizcarra said he considered that a defacto rejection of his cabinet. Lawmakers disagree, pointing out that they later voted in favor of the cabinet.
3. Who is running Peru right now?
Vizcarra remains in charge and has the backing of the police and the armed forces. Congress hasn’t taken any steps since swearing in Mercedes Araoz, who had been vice president. Araoz resigned from her post as interim president just one day after being sworn in, saying she can’t exercise the position given to her by Congress and calling for a general election.
4. How bad is corruption in Peru?
Graft is pervasive at many levels. Recent scandals have revealed rampant corruption among the country’s elites. Last year, anti-narcotics police threw the justice system into crisis when they uncovered a judicial corruption ring. The government accused opposition lawmakers of protecting some of the judges and prosecutors who have been implicated in the obstruction of investigations. The case came hot on the heels of the Carwash corruption scandal that ensnared Peru’s last four presidents. Corruption has displaced crime as Peruvians’ biggest concern in recent years.
5. What’s likely to happen?
Lawmakers say they will ask the Constitutional Court to declare the dissolution of Congress illegal. If that happens, they could move to impeach Vizcarra. Even before this latest crisis, Vizcarra had been calling for an early general election as a way out of the political gridlock over his anti-graft proposals, and he said he would not be a candidate, so as to give his country a fresh start. The Organization of American States called on the Constitutional Court to address the legal aspects of the crisis and said voters should have the final say in the parliamentary election scheduled for Jan. 26. Courts will also have their say in the next few months.
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