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LatinNews Daily - 20 October 2021

PERU: Congress limits Castillo’s power to dissolve legislature

On 19 October, Peru’s unicameral congress voted for the second time to approve a bill that limits the president’s power to declare a lack of confidence in the legislature and dissolve congress.

Analysis:

Two bills in congress seeking to alter Peru’s constitution have demonstrated the extent of distrust between the government and the opposition. The opposition bill, which was approved for the second time following President Pedro Castillo’s failure to promulgate it last month, limits the president’s power to dissolve congress – an issue which has gained salience in light of apparent threats to congress from the recently dismissed prime minister, Guido Bellido. Meanwhile, the government has presented its own bill that seeks to restrict the reasons for which the president or cabinet ministers can be impeached, in response to recent threats from the opposition to oust some of Castillo’s more controversial cabinet choices.

  • The bill, which was previously approved on 16 September but was not promulgated by Castillo, was passed with 79 votes in favour, 43 against, and three abstentions. It limits the president’s power to dissolve congress via a declaration of no confidence (as former president Martín Vizcarra [2018-2020] did in 2019). Under the newly approved bill, the president’s ability to declare no confidence in congress would be limited to matters concerning the legislature’s competency. A plenary debate would then be triggered, with a majority vote required to uphold the no-confidence vote.
  • Castillo had returned the bill to congress’s constitutional commission on 6 October, arguing that it “violates the principle of the separation of powers and the competencies of the executive.”
  • Prime Minister Mirtha Vásquez said that the government would challenge the bill in the courts, with the case likely to make its way to the constitutional court (TC).
  • If the bill is upheld by the courts, it would effectively prevent Castillo from dissolving the legislature – Perú Libre, the party on whose ticket he won the presidency, holds just 37 of 130 seats in congress, and furthermore, Castillo is currently engaged in a bitter dispute with the party that reduces the likelihood of it unifying behind him.
  • The government yesterday announced its own attempt to alter the balance of powers between the legislative and the executive, presenting a bill that would limit congress’s ability to impeach the president to matters relating to permanent physical or mental incapacity. This incapacity would have to be certified by a “medical board” and be approved by two-thirds of congress.
  • The government’s bill would also limit the impeachment of ministers to matters concerning the carrying out of their duties. This issue has gained prominence in recent weeks following the opposition’s moves to impeach former labour minister Iber Maraví for his alleged links to the Sendero Luminoso (SL) guerrilla group.

Looking Ahead: If the bill limiting the president’s power to dissolve congress is upheld by the courts, it will decrease the likelihood of Castillo fulfilling his campaign pledge to draft a new constitution, given the stiff opposition in the legislature to a new magna carta.