Peru’s first female president is trying to cement her hold on power, saying she expects to complete the term of her ousted predecessor and quench years of political turmoil that have blighted the Andean nation.
Yet as Dina Boluarte appeared in a military ceremony on national television on Friday in her first official event as head of state, some politicians were already calling for early elections in an indication of continued rancour.
Boluarte, who was elevated from vice president to replace Pedro Castillo on Wednesday, said she should be allowed to hold the office for the remaining three and a half years of his term.
After being sworn in, 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.
“I know that there are voices that are calling for early elections. That is democracy,” Boluarte said, adding, however, that there is a need for stability in a deeply polarised country that has had six presidents in the past six years.
“If society and if the situation warrants bringing forward elections, then in conversation with the democratic and political forces in Congress, we will sit down to talk,” she told reporters.
Analysts have predicted a tough road ahead for the new president, a 60-year-old lawyer and political neophyte.
A poll by the Institute of Peruvian Studies conducted in November suggested most Peruvians would want a ballot before 2026. Of those surveyed, 86 percent said they preferred early presidential and congressional elections if Castillo were removed.
Former President Ollanta Humala, who governed from 2011 to 2016, noted that the new leader was not involved in politics or government before becoming vice president last year 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”.
Boluarte has urged Peruvians to “calm down” as Castillo supporters hold small demonstrations in Lima and other parts of the country.
Local television showed footage of hundreds of farmers blocking a stretch of Peru’s main coastal highway to demand early elections. And 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,” said Juana Ponce, one of the protesters. “We have no authorities. We have nothing. It is a national shame. All these corrupt congressmen have sold out. They have betrayed our president, Pedro Castillo.”