A couple of weeks ago, thousands of mostly young adults, gathered in Lima, singing and celebrating the “constitutional dissolution” of congress. It is the corollary of what Peru’s bicentennial generation has been fighting for since the Lava Jato scandal broke out: The elimination of a corrupt political class represented in a widely unpopular Congress.
After Congress decided to block President Vizcarra’s efforts to call for new general elections next year, the political stakes were at its highest, opening the final chapter of a three-year-long political crisis.
Peru’s power struggle between the President and the opposition-dominated Congress made world headlines as the former intended to halt, through a vote of confidence, the latter’s controversial appointment of new questionable judges to the Constitutional Court.
Congress in an evident self-serving attitude, was summoned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that stressed the need for a transparent process. For the majority in Congress, the control of the court represented their latest attempt to capture the highest interpreter body of the constitution at their service.
After a dramatic series of unprecedented events that ended with the election of the cousin of the President of Congress as the newly appointed judge, the government claimed that the vow was denied, calling for new parliamentary elections.
For the Legislature Body, this act was unconstitutional, moving to suspend Vizcarra and proclaiming the VP Araoz, as the new President, only to resign after 24 hours of taking the oath of office. Furthermore, as both national and international institutions quickly showed its complete support for Vizcarra as the sole chief of state, the country prepares for a new era where old political forces will no longer play a major role in national life.
Peru’s political landscape has put in the evidence the urgent need for democratic reform, that meets the expectations of a fast-changing nation that demands change. However, delivering such measures, in the long term, continues to be a steep mountain to climb for the Andean nation that still has to come to terms with its authoritarian past.
As the country navigate full steam towards its bicentennial anniversary in 2021, the best gift Peruvians could receive is the political consolidation of the social movements that have successfully defy the culture of corruption and impunity in politics.
During much of its independent life, Peru has succumbed to dictatorships and populist regimes claiming to be the solution for the challenges the country has endured. Last right-wing dictator, Fujimori, led a coup d’état, giving shape to the current constitution that weakened congress and strengthened the executive branch.
Now, Fuerza Popular, under the dictator’s daughter Keiko has been stripped from its power by the same constitution their historical leader enforced to law. Keiko failed to portray herself as the new face of a “democratic Fujimorismo”. In fact, she is a key player of the Odebrecht’s probe, being in prison herself, awaiting trial for allegedly receiving illegal campaign funds, and obstructing justice by using her majority in congress to control the judiciary branch.
Traditionally, political parties in Peru have been widely unpopular, leaders have been elected by what Peruvians have called “the election of the lesser of all evils”. This dynamic has been partially responsible for the establishment of regimes that have ended their administrations surrounded by a cloud of disgrace with almost no popular support. These prevalent circumstances have undermined the foundations of democracy in the last two decades.
For a nation that has historically associated democracy with strong men rather than law, millennials have risen to the challenge of the Odebrecht Scandal by backing constitutional reforms and demanding a more pluralist democracy.
In that line, President Vizcarra has driven his administration following the principle of vox populi, vox dei, channeling public discontent into reforms that have faced opposition by Fujimorismo and its allies.
As parliamentary elections will be held in January and Presidental elections are already in the horizon, the bicentennial generation, have a foothold to channel their determination for change into the establishment of new political parties. Challenging as it may be, meeting the expectations of reforming public institutions will dominate the national discourse over the next years.
So far, the question remains, who will rise to lead this new emboldened generation? More importantly, would this circumstance deliver a long-term solution that meets the historical challenges the young democracy faces?