GP Short Notes # 686, 11 December 2022
On 07 December, President Pedro Castillo, ahead of the trial announced that he would be dissolving the congress “by decree.” The opposition, members of his party, the armed forces and the federal police condemned this decision. Ministers from his party resigned from their offices and the Supreme Court of Peru termed this move unconstitutional.
Congress convened two hours later to begin the impeachment trial and with 101 votes in favour, 6 against and 10 abstentions, Castillo was impeached from power. In his place, Vice President Dina Boluarte was sworn in as the first female President of Peru. She called for "a political truce to install a government of national unity." Castillo was then arrested from the presidential palace on a “rebellion” charge for trying to violate the constitution.
What is the background?
First, the structure of the Peruvian Government. The Government of Peru is a semi-presidential form of government with a multiparty system. It is divided into three branches: executive, legislature, and judiciary. Peru’s legislature or the Peruvian Congress is a unicameral body with 130 legislators elected through a proportional representation for five years. The legislature is led by the President of Congress who is elected by the members and is usually from the ruling party. The executive is led by the President of Peru who is the head of state and government. The executive consists of the President, two Vice Presidents, a Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers which are appointed by the President. President Pedro Castillo was elected in June 2021 and in his term, he shuffled his cabinet five times. The congress is held by the opposition and has always clashed with Castillo and his ministers.
Second, differences between the legislature and the executive. The current governmental structure was introduced in Peru in 1993. Since 1999, with the impeachment of former President Alberto Fujimori, the Congress and the Executive have always clashed. Since 2016, Peru has seen six Presidents assume office who have either been impeached or have dissolved the Congress and called for fresh elections. After Castillo came to power with more than 50 per cent of the total votes in 2021, he has clashed with the legislature controlled by the opposition on many accounts. The Congress has accused Castillo on multiple occasions of corruption and economically benefiting from his Presidency. As of 7 December, Castillo has five open criminal investigations and a constitutional complaint accusing him of leading a criminal organisation in the government.
Third, prior impeachment attempts. The impeachment motion passed on 2 December was the third impeachment motion tabled in Congress against Castillo. The first impeachment attempt was in December 2021 on the on the account of illicit financing of the ruling party and the second attempt was in March 2022 on the accusation of “permanent moral incapacity.” Both these attempts failed as the opposition did not garner enough support for the motion to pass, that is, 87 votes in favour of the procedure.
What does it mean?
First, the continued dominance of Congress. Congress being an independent body in the government has the power to not only make laws but also to remove the President. Since 1999, the Congress has played a major role in the appointment and removal of Presidents. Here Bolurate was appointed by the Congress but currently does not have concrete support of her party or the opposition. Her reign as the President will likely be dictated by the Congress unless she calls for fresh elections.
Second, the unstable nature of Peruvian politics. Since the constitution was formally introduced in 1993, the Peruvian political landscape has been dynamic and unstable. Presidents and Ministers in Peru have been involved in scandals, corruption, and human rights violations. The impeachment of Castillo brings out this tumultuous nature of Peruvian politics to light.