Peru’s president says elections could be held later this year

Dina Boluarte says she is open to bringing vote forward to December 2023 as protests demanding her resignation continue.

Peru's President Dina Boluarte speaks during a news conference
President Dina Boluarte has repeatedly called on Peru's legislature to move elections forward in response to weeks of unrest and protests [File: Cris Bouroncle/AFP]

Peru’s embattled President Dina Boluarte has expressed openness to moving elections forward to the end of the year, as demonstrators continue to demand her removal from office and political reforms.

The Congress of Peru is expected to debate a proposal on Friday to move national elections up from 2026 to April 2024, but several legislators have proposed amending the bill to move up the elections even earlier, to late 2023.

Boluarte said she discussed moving the vote up to December of this year with the minister of justice and the prime minister.

“We put this bill to advance elections to December 2023 to the ministers for consideration,” she said during a ceremony at a military airport in the capital, Lima.

Holding early elections has been a key demand of anti-government protesters, who have demonstrated across the Andean nation for weeks following the opposition-led Congress’s impeachment of former President Pedro Castillo in early December.

Peruvian lawmakers voted to remove Castillo after he announced plans to disband the legislature and rule by decree – a move that was widely criticised as illegal. Boluarte, who previously served as vice president, was sworn in shortly after he was removed from office.

Castillo has remained in pretrial detention on charges of “rebellion” that he has denied.

In the meantime, Peru’s security forces have been criticised for employing lethal force to contain the protests, which have been largely driven by Castillo’s supporters in poor and rural areas, including many that are home to large Indigenous communities.

Dozens of people have been killed in the unrest so far.

Congress previously voted on December 21 in favour of a Boluarte-backed bill to bring forward elections from 2026 to 2024 in an effort to diffuse tensions and end the protests.

“Congress voted once and we are waiting for them to vote again. However, the protests continue. There are more roadblocks and violence,” Boluarte said on Friday, describing the current political crisis as a “quagmire”.

It remained unclear if rescheduling the elections for the end of the year would satisfy protesters, who have called for an immediate vote, as well as Boluarte’s resignation, the dissolution of parliament, and a new constitution.

Some of the worst violence and highest death tolls have come when protesters tried to storm airports in the country’s south, which has been the epicentre of the demonstrations.

As well as blocking dozens of roads and forcing the temporary closure of several airports, protesters have placed rocks on the train tracks that act as the only transport access to Machu Picchu, the former Inca citadel and jewel of Peruvian tourism.

That resulted in hundreds of tourists being left stranded at the archaeological ruins and many of them were evacuated by helicopter.

Peru’s government is also under pressure from left-wing leaders in countries across the region who have expressed support for Castillo and called his removal illegitimate.

Peru’s Armed Forces said on Friday they would provide their “full support” to the National Police in removing protest-related roadblocks on national roads.

A day earlier, the defence ministry said the roadblocks were “illegal” and called for protesters to stand down. In Puno, in southern Peru, hundreds of soldiers and police were deployed to free up the roads.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies