Peru president offers early election and reforms to 1993 Constitution

Dina Boluarte’s request to Congress comes as social unrest continues to spread. A protester died in the capital this weekend, bringing the national death toll to 58

Dina Boluarte
The president of Peru, Dina Boluarte.Paolo Aguilar (EFE)

A few days shy of completing her first two months in office, and with Peru in a permanent state of social upheaval, President Dina Boluarte on Sunday made two announcements aimed at placating the protests against her. The first entails holding early elections in October of this year, and the second involves long-awaited changes to the 1993 Constitution.

Sunday’s announcement comes a day after the first protester was killed by police fire in the capital, Lima. Nationwide, 58 people have died since the protests began last December. The Ombudsman’s Office confirmed the death of Víctor Santisteban Yacsavilca, 55, on its Twitter account. Santisteban received a serious head injury while demonstrating against the government on Abancay street, in the historic city center. Another demonstrator was admitted to an intensive care unit.

Protests have spread like wildfire in Peru since Boluarte assumed the presidency on December 7 after parliament impeached then-president Pedro Castillo, who had earlier attempted to dissolve Congress in a self-coup and was later arrested and placed in pre-trial detention.

Boluarte called on Congress to approve a proposal to move elections forward; the move will be put to a vote on Monday. “Members of Congress, you have to understand your historical responsibility,” said Boluarte in her address. “Tomorrow you have the opportunity to earn the trust of the country, to meet this demand so anxiously awaited by the Peruvian people. Let’s tell all of Peru, with the highest sense of responsibility: we’re all leaving.”

Women watching Peruvian President Dina Boluarte's message to the nation, inside a restaurant in Juliana on Sunday.
Women watching Peruvian President Dina Boluarte's message to the nation, inside a restaurant in Juliana on Sunday.Rodrigo Abd (AP)

The president also stressed that if the chamber ignores her request, she has a plan B and will immediately present a proposal on behalf of the executive. “This regulatory proposal reflects the urgent need to improve the levels of democratic legitimacy of the country’s political representation. This will allow the population to channel their main demands about the national political agenda through the institutions, rather than through violence,” she said.

In order to hold elections in October, the presidential term would have to be shortened, as well as that of the lawmakers who sit in parliament. “The first round should be held the second Sunday of October, and the runoff in December,” said Boluarte, who had earlier expressed support for a proposal to hold national elections in April 2024 rather than the previously scheduled 2026.

But that was not the only major announcement of the evening. Dina Boluarte, the first woman to wear the presidential sash after succeeding Castillo, whom she was serving as vice-president, made a second proposal on Sunday that would have been unimaginable just a few weeks ago: a complete upheaval of the 1993 Constitution, the one enacted during Alberto Fujimori’s administration. “This is to settle once and for all the debate on constitutional reform – a topic that is permanently used by some political forces to undermine any democratic solution to the current situation.”

The president said that the Constitutional Committee of the next Congress will be entrusted with the task. “This bill fits perfectly with the expectations of another sector of Congress that also wants to make political reforms through a Constituent Assembly. There would be no more pretexts for this to happen in 2023,″ she said. The initiative will be submitted to referendum and “all institutions will be able to present their contributions in the design of this reform.”

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