New Peru president vows to finish term, others want election

Peru’s first female president is pushing to cement her hold on power, saying she expects to complete the term of her ousted predecessor and buck the trend of presidential failures blighting the Andean nation

ByFRANKLIN BRICEÑO Associated Press
December 9, 2022, 12:04 AM

LIMA, Peru -- Peru's first female president is pushing to cement her hold on power, saying she expects to complete the term of her ousted predecessor and buck the trend of presidential failures blighting the Andean nation.

Yet, even as Dina Doluarte made the call Thursday, some politicians already were calling for early elections in an indication of continued political rancor.

Boluarte, who was elevated from vice president to replace leftist Pedro Castillo as the country's leader Wednesday after he angered many by trying to dissolve the legislature before an impeachment vote, said she should be allowed to hold the office for the remaining 3 1/2 years of his term.

“The constitution is the magna carta that all Peruvians must obey," and it calls for the presidential term to run until July 28, 2026, she said at her first news conference, held a day after Castillo was voted out of office and arrested on charges of rebellion just 17 months into his term.

After being sworn in as president Wednesday, Boluarte called for a truce with legislators who dismissed Castillo for “permanent moral incapacity,” a clause of the constitution that experts say is so vague it allows the removal of a president for almost any reason. It was also used to oust President Martín Vizcarra, who governed in 2018-2020.

“I know that there are voices that are calling for early elections. That is democracy,” Boluarte said. But she added that there is a need for stability in Peru, a strongly polarized country that has had six presidents in the last six years.

“In coordination with all organizations, we will be looking at alternatives to reorient the country’s course,” she said.

Seeking to avoid being added to the list of canned presidents, Boluarte quickly began to show herself in public working as Peru's new head of state. She met with groups of conservative and liberal lawmakers at the presidential palace. Before that, she danced an Andean dance after watching a Roman Catholic procession of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception.

Analysts, however, predicted a tough road for the new president, a 60-year-old lawyer and political neophyte.

Jorge Aragón, a political science professor at Peru’s Pontifical Catholic University, said a Boluarte government “is going to be very complicated, if not impossible.”

Noting that Boluarte has no legislative base of support, Aragón said she faces the hard task of trying to forge ties with numerous blocs in a fracious Congress.

A poll by the Institute of Peruvian Studies in November suggested most Peruvians might want a ballot before 2026, with 86% of those surveyed saying they preferred early presidential and congressional elections if Castillo should be removed.

But Patricia Zárate, head of the institute’s opinion studies area, said Thursday that Boluarte might be able to hold on if members of Congress don't want to risk early elections

“If she can work with all the legislative blocs that are negotiating certain ministries or certain policies, she could last a little longer than President Castillo,” Zárate, said. “Since Congress wants to survive, maybe it can at least negotiate some issues to let them survive.”

Still, Zárate said, “reaching 2026 looks very distant.”

Luis Mendieta, who was Castillo’s chief of staff, said he hoped Boluarte can build alliances in Congress that “will allow her to approve more than 64 important bills that the Castillo government is leaving.”

“She must also look for a Cabinet that guarantees governability — difficult but it can be achieved,” Mendieta said.

Former President Ollanta Humala, who governed in 2011-2016, was skeptical, nothing the new leader was not involved in politics or government before becoming vice president and has no base in Congress.

“She does not have the tools to govern,” Humala told N. television. He predicted that any truce with Congress “will last a month or perhaps more, but then the great problems of the country come upon her.”

The governor of Cusco, Jean Paul Benavente, demanded the new president call an early vote, saying that would offer a “solution to the political crisis of the country.”

In the streets, small demonstrations by Castillo supporters continued in the capital and others parts of Peru, including Tacabamba, the district capital closest to the rural home of Castillo. Protesters there demanded he be released, rejected Boluarte as president and called for Congress to be closed.

In Lima, several hundred protesters trying to reach the Congress building clashed with police, who used canes and tear gas to push them back.

“The only thing left is the people. We have no authorities, we have nothing," said Juana Ponce, one of the protesters. “It is a national shame. All these corrupt congressmen have sold out. They have betrayed our president, Pedro Castillo.”

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Associated Press journalists Gisela Salomon in Miami and Mauricio Muñoz and César Barreto from Lima contributed to this report.

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