On Thursday, November 25, representatives from three right-wing parties presented a formal impeachment request to remove leftist president Pedro Castillo, who has been in power for only four months. The representatives allege that Castillo has displayed a “moral incapacity” to exercise his executive functions.
A similar clause in the Constitution was used successfully to remove Peru’s President Martín Vizcarra from office in November 2020. Vizcarra’s removal, viewed as a soft coup by many, triggered widespread demonstrations. Peruvians’ demands included the formation of a Constituent Assembly, one of the pillars of Castillo’s presidential campaign, culminating in his victory in the elections of June, 2021. Including Castillo, Peru has had five acting presidents since 2016.
the “vacancy” motion was presented by representatives from the Go Forth Country (Social Integration), Popular Force and Popular Renewal parties, which represent a third of all parliament seats. The representatives were able to gather 28 signatures, two more than the required number needed to initiate an impeachment process before the Congressional plenary session.
However, these signatures do not guarantee that a motion for debate will be granted before the plenary session, since this would require a 40% vote count in favor of such a measure. Furthermore, 87 votes out of a total of 130 would ultimately be required to remove the president of Peru.
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Castillo’s possible removal has been concocted in a fertile lawfare terrain with overlapping government branches and structural conflicts within Peru’s political institutions.
Peru’s single-house parliament is dominated by a right-wing opposition, while the ruling party Marxist Peru Libre party is the strongest minority, holding 37 seats.
On Friday, November 26, opposition leader and former presidential candidate, Keiko Fujimori, announced that her Popular Force party, the second minority force in congress with 24 seats, will back the impeachment request.
Fujimori wrote on Twitter that “the Popular Force party believes that this government has shown a permanent inability to lead the country.”
The far-right Popular Renewal party will also back Castillo’s dismissal, and has even called for a march to take place on Saturday, November 27.
Castillo’s possible dismissal has been discussed ever since the day after his election, when right-wing parties denounced a supposed fraud despite the electoral guarantees given by the electoral authorities.
Castillo assumed Peru’s presidency on July 28 and is set to end his term in July 2026. Castillo’s administration has been criticized for its supposed lack of direction and constant ministerial crises. In less than 120 days in office, Castillo has changed a dozen ministers and faced ruptures within the coalition that brought him into office.
Why this matters
The moderate left tendencies within the coalition, those that failed to achieve a solid presidential candidacy by their own means, formed an alliance with Castillo and Peru Libre, and once he assumed power they pressed for several changes in the coalition government to gain higher quotas within parliament. This was done, in theory, to solidify the new government and guarantee political stability in Congress.
To a great extent, Castillo has yielded too much, changing ministers and policies in both domestic and foreign matters. Now, the future of his administration is in suspense as his weak parliament coalition will be tested against the possibility of a vacancy vote. If such a motion fails for the right wing, this will surely not be their only opportunity.
To justify his government’s measures, Castillo has alluded to a “governability” principle and a unity between his coalition forces. But, faced with a possible impeachment just a few months into his mandate, Castillo’s survival rests in the dizzying and complex political scenario characterized by fragmented coalitions, co-opted institutions, and deep instability. This can be explained by multiple factors, such as changes in loyalties, corruption, and fickle ideological stances in all political spectra. On the other hand, the Peruvian people, who have expressed their will at the polls, do not see themselves represented by a parliament seeking impeachment, nor in the maneuvers and interests of elite politics.
Featured image: Pedro Castillo, President of Peru. Photo: Presidency of Peru/AFP
(Misión Verdad from Samuel Robinson Institute report issued on November 26, 2021) with Orinoco Tribune content
Translation: Orinoco Tribune