Peru president urges Congress to approve early polls amid unrest

Dina Boluarte asks Congress to sign off on early elections as she refuses to resign despite the worsening protests.

Peru's new President Dina Boluarte attends a ceremony marking Army Day,
Demonstrators are demanding early polls, and the release of former leader Castillo, who was impeached and detained last week. [Martin Mejia/AP Photo]

Peru’s embattled President Dina Boluarte has exhorted the country’s Congress to bring forward general elections, as nationwide anti-government protests continue following the removal of President Pedro Castillo last week.

In a national address on Saturday, Boluarte slammed Congress, which on Friday failed to muster enough votes to approve her proposal for a constitutional amendment that would have pushed up elections, originally scheduled for 2026, to December 2023.

“Don’t be blind,” said Boluarte, reminding legislators to reconsider their position, citing opinion polls that more than 80 percent of Peruvians want general elections – for president and Congress – to stabilise the country.

“Look at the people and take action in line with what they are asking. I demand that the vote to bring elections up be reconsidered,” said the 60-year-old former vice president, who assumed the presidency on December 7.

Demonstrators are demanding early polls, and the release of former leader Castillo, who was impeached and detained on charges of rebellion and conspiracy last week – sparking the unrest.

“We want the immediate closure of Congress; we want the resignation of Dina Boluarte,” Rene Mendoza, a protester at the border with Bolivia, told the Reuters news agency. “Today the Peruvian people are in mourning … The whole of Peru is in a struggle.”

Refuses to resign

Boluarte, however, said she will not resign despite the worsening protests that have left at least 20 people dead and more than 500 demonstrators and security forces wounded. The crisis has only deepened the instability gripping the country, which has seen six presidents in as many years.

“What is solved by my resignation?” she said, adding that such a move would not resolve the urgent problems facing Peru’s countryside, such as the worst drought in a half-century, and only plunge the country deeper into chaos.

She told the legislators that it was not time for political revenge and that 83 percent of the country wanted new elections, said Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez reporting from the capital Lima.

She has addressed the protesters and asked them what they are gaining from burning police stations, prosecutors’ offices, and courts and trying to take over airports and closing highways, Sanchez said.

Boluarte has only been in office for 10 days and in that time, she said that she has not even had time to sit down and start any kind of dialogue, said the Al Jazeera correspondent.

She was the running mate of the outsider Castillo in his shock victory last year. The 60-year-old said she tried as hard as she could to “protect” Castillo from a hostile Congress made up of elites who made it impossible for the newcomer politician to govern.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies