LatinNews Daily - 26 January 2022

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PERU: Gov’t appeals law that threatens plans for new constitution

On 25 January, Peru’s constitutional court (TC) agreed to hear an appeal from President Pedro Castillo’s government against a new law limiting referendums on constitutional reforms.

Analysis:

The TC case will likely have huge ramifications for Castillo’s presidency. Triggering a referendum on a new constitution was a core plank of his election campaign, and was seen by many as the only means of delivering the fundamental change that Castillo promised but has yet to deliver. If the TC upholds the new law, Castillo will be unable to trigger a referendum via the collection of signatures, and would instead need the approval of the opposition-controlled congress.

  • The TC case relates to a law approved by the unicameral congress on 21 January which restricts referendums on constitutional reforms. Under the law, any referendum will need to first be approved by an absolute majority in congress, where parties allied with Castillo hold just 45 out of 130 seats.
  • The new law effectively maintains the rules laid out in Peru’s 1993 constitution, eliminating provisions from a constitutional amendment which had established that referendums could be triggered with the signatures of at least 10% of the electorate.
  • Following a government appeal, the TC announced yesterday that it will hear arguments today (26 January) on whether the new law is constitutional. With the seven-member TC reduced to six judges since the death of Justice Carlos Ramos Núñez in September, the government will require five out six justices to support its appeal. TC Justice Eloy Espinosa-Saldaña said yesterday that this will make it “very difficult” for a consensus to be reached in favour of the government.
  • Perú Libre (PL), the left-wing party that Castillo represented in last year’s election, had already been collecting signatures to trigger a referendum on establishing a constituent convention. PL received fierce criticism after a 17 January tweet in which the party warned that congress is “eliminating this peaceful route towards a new constitution and opening the door to the violent path.”

Looking Ahead: The TC case will further ratchet up tensions between the executive and the legislature, with both having a great deal to lose – an inability to deliver on Castillo’s promise of a constituent assembly would be a huge blow to his credibility, whilst right-wing parties in congress view the prospect of a new constitution as an existential threat to economic stability in Peru.

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