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Peru“s Congress rejects proposal for 2023 elections, debate continues

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A demonstrator holds a flag in front of riot police officers standing guard during a protest to demand Peru’s President Dina Boluarte to step down, in Lima, Peru, January 31, 2023. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda

Peru’s Congress on Wednesday rejected a proposal to move elections forward to December 2023, despite nearly two months of protests that have left dozens dead following the ousting of former President Pedro Castillo.

Lawmakers will continue debating a different proposal to hold early elections, a key demand of the protesters. The first proposal – one of several motions – was rejected by 68 lawmakers, and voted for by 54, with two abstentions.

Within the deeply fragmented Congress, some lawmakers wish to finish their original term, while others want to go further and hold a referendum for a new constitution.

Protesters have over past weeks blocked roads, taken over airports and set some buildings on fire, with demands including early elections, Congress’ closure, the resignation of President Dina Boluarte and Castillo’s release from jail.

Congress had supported a proposal to move the scheduled 2026 elections to April 2024, but the move failed to quell the unrest.

Castillo had been propelled into power in 2021 thanks to support from Peru’s south and poorer rural Andean regions, the focus of the protests.

A leftist former teacher, Castillo was embroiled in multiple corruption investigations and went through five Cabinets and more than 80 ministers during his 17 months in power.

He was arrested on Dec. 7 and is being held in pre-trial detention after he tried to illegally dissolve Congress. His vice-president Boluarte, who was sworn in hours after he was removed from office, is Peru’s sixth president in five years.

After years of political infighting, a January survey by local pollster IEP found that Congress, seen as corrupt and self-serving, has an approval rating of just 7%. Boluarte fared little better at 17%, while 73% backed new elections this year.

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