Peruvian Congress agrees to debate measure on past elections

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Urged by Peru’s embattled president to take action in response to weeks of deadly protests, Congress narrowly agreed on Monday to reconsider a proposal to move the 2026 national elections to October .

Lawmakers approved the reconsideration with 66 votes in favour, the bare minimum required in the 130-member assembly, and well short of the two-thirds needed for final approval in previous elections without a popular referendum.

Lawmakers rejected a similar proposal on Friday — one that would have a new president and Congress take over on January 1, 2024.

If a snap election is approved, it would be the first concrete step to meet the demands of protesters, who lack allies among lawmakers. They have been taking to the streets for weeks, demanding the removal of the president and the dissolution of Congress.

President Dina Boluarte has become the main target of protesters, whose clashes with police have led to the death of 58 people, including a policeman. She was vice president until lawmakers finally succeeded in removing President Pedro Castillo, who was arrested after ordering the dissolution of Congress on December 7.

Boluarte pushed for an earlier election even as she dismissed the protesters as extremists seeking to foment chaos and seize power. Then, over the weekend, the first protester died in the capital of Lima, further increasing the pressure for a response.

Boluarte threatened on Sunday that if lawmakers failed to agree on a mechanism that would advance the election, his office would send a measure to Congress that would include “total reform” of the Constitution.

“Members of Congress, you must understand your historical responsibility. You have the opportunity tomorrow to earn the trust of the country, by responding to the long-awaited demand of the Peruvian people,” Boluarte said. “We have to say to all of Peru, with the highest responsibility: we are all leaving.

If she’s pushing for constitutional reform, she doesn’t have the votes she needs in Congress to do what she wants. Lawmakers could just ignore it.

One thing she could do unilaterally, however, is quit. This would automatically trigger an earlier election, but how quickly it would happen is a matter of debate. Some say it could take at least a year to meet all the legal requirements, which means a vote is unlikely to take place until 2024.

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