Peru’s president Pedro Castillo announced the “temporary” dissolution of congress just hours ahead of an impeachment vote on Wednesday, plunging the Andean nation deeper into political crisis.
“We took the decision of establishing a government of exception,” Castillo said in a televised speech. “From today and until the new congress is established, we will govern through decrees.”
Peru’s congress had been poised to begin debate and later vote on whether to impeach Castillo. His finance and foreign ministers were among various cabinet members to announce their resignations on social media after Castillo moved to close congress and called for new congressional elections.
Castillo and members of his family are under investigation for corruption and influence peddling. When opposition lawmakers — largely from rightwing parties — scheduled impeachment proceedings, they accused him of “permanent moral incapacity”.
The former schoolteacher and political novice has survived two previous impeachment attempts, thanks to his ability to keep a third of the opposition-led congress on his side. Eighty-seven votes in the 130-seat chamber are required to secure the president’s removal.
“The democratic system in Peru has broken down,” said Denisse Rodriguez-Olivari, a policy leader fellow at the School of Transnational Governance at the European University Institute, describing Castillo’s move as a “self-coup”.
Castillo has vehemently denied the allegations and characterised the impeachment proceedings as the latest attempt to subvert the will of voters. He narrowly won a five-year term last year, defeating rightwing candidate Keiko Fujimori in a run-off.
His third finance minister of the year, Kurt Burneo, who was among those who resigned on Wednesday, had acknowledged last month that political dysfunction is damaging the business climate in Peru, which once boasted one of Latin America’s most robust economies. In October, credit rating agency Fitch revised Peru’s outlook from “stable” to “negative”.
A report published last week after a high-level visit from the Organization of American States found that “political fragmentation” in Peru has put the country’s democratic institutions at risk, and recommended a “truce” while “a minimum consensus is reached to ensure governability”.
But such governability has been difficult to achieve when the president and congress are viewed so negatively by the public. A poll last month by Ipsos for El Comercio found Castillo’s approval rating nationwide to be 26 per cent, while congress it was only 18 per cent.