President Vizcarra issues ultimatum to Congress on anti-corruption reforms

World Today

A political crisis in Peru. President Martin Vizcarra has issued an ultimatum to the Congress — Either back anti-corruption measures or dismiss his cabinet. But if they choose dismissal, they’ll be handing Vizcarra the power to dissolve Congress and call new elections. CGTN’s Dan Collyns has details.

Peru’s president is challenging the opposition-dominated Congress to back a package of anti-corruption measures or face new elections. Martin Vizcarra invoked a constitutional procedure which could allow him to dissolve the chamber if lawmakers fail to deliver a vote of confidence in his cabinet.

It’s a bold move but it might pay off. Under Peru’s constitution, if the lawmakers dismiss two cabinets, the president can close Congress and call legislative elections. This Congress has already dismissed one cabinet under former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski whom Vizcarra replaced earlier this year.

Vizcarra’s move comes amid widespread indignation after corruption scandals rocked public trust in Peru’s judicial and political institutions. He tapped into that anger in an address broadcast to the nation on Sunday.

“I want to say to all Peruvians that I understand your indignation and I share it,” said Vizcarra. “We need reform now! Enough of buying and selling rights and letting the crimes which break our laws and sicken our society go unpunished.”

Vizcarra wants to get the opposition-controlled chamber to support four bills to curb corruption. But the anti-graft drive and a call for a referendum on term limits for lawmakers have had a lukewarm reception in Congress. Many believe that’s because the members are part of the problem.

“People are very angry about the corruption occurring in the country,” political commentator Augusto Alvarez Rodrich said. “Mr. Vizcarra is connecting with that anger in order to push Congress to make the necessary reforms to fix this. This is the main source of strength for Mr. Vizcarra–his connection with people.”

By asking for a confidence vote, the president may have the upper hand, for now. But the opposition’s tight control over the Congress continues.