Peru Congress rejects president’s early elections request

Peru’s Congress has rejected a request by embattled President Dina Boluarte to bring forward elections to December 2023, as protests that have killed dozens rage on against her leadership.

Lawmakers agreed last month to bring forward elections from 2026 to April 2024. But in a plenary session held during Saturday’s early hours, Congress rejected the proposal, with 45 votes in favour, 65 against and two abstentions.

Left-wing parties demanded that the advancement of elections be accompanied by a constitutional convention – something protesters have repeatedly called for.

“With this vote, the constitutional reform proposal for the advancement of elections is rejected,” Congress President Jose Williams said, after more than seven hours of debate.

Following the vote, Williams received a request for “reconsideration”, which could be debated on Monday in a new session, though it would be difficult to reverse the decision.

The South American country has been embroiled in a political crisis with near-daily protests since December 7, when then-President Pedro Castillo was arrested after attempting to dissolve Congress and rule by decree.

Protesters have demanded Boluarte’s removal, as well as immediate elections after the dissolution of Congress, and a new constitution.

“I have no interest in remaining in the presidency. If I am here it is because I fulfilled my constitutional responsibility,” Boluarte insisted.

As Castillo’s vice president, Boluarte was constitutionally mandated to replace him after he was impeached by Congress and arrested.

Demanding that Boluarte resign and call elections, the protesters – largely Castillo’s supporters in poor and rural areas – have erected roadblocks on highways, causing shortages of food, fuel and other basic supplies.

In seven weeks of protests since the former president’s arrest, 47 people have been killed, according to the Ombudsman’s Office of Peru.

The autonomous human rights office said another 10 civilians – including two babies – were collateral fatalities when they were unable to get medical treatment or medicine due to roadblocks.

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