Why is democracy at stake in Peru?
By Diego Sanchez Borjas
On November 9th, 2020, the Peruvian Congress agreed, by 105 out of 130 votes, to vacate President Martin Vizcarra Cornejo on the grounds of “permanent moral incapacity” under Article 113(2) of the Political Constitution of Peru. The main basis for this decision was the alleged bribes the President received when he occupied the position of Regional Governor of Moquegua from 2011 until 2014, as confessed by three to-be whistle-blowers during the debate held in Parliament. As a result, the seat of President should have been transferred to the Vice-President. However, due to the resignation of Mercedes Araoz, the line of succession, according to Article 115 of the Constitution, now moved to the Speaker of Congress, Manuel Merino de Lama, at the moment in which the political crisis began.
With a situation threatening to escalate further, it is imperative to discuss the Congress’ decision within the framework of legitimacy in a consistent manner, to clarify the sounding outcry in Peruvian streets.
Why is the Congress decision controversial?
Reason 1: Lack of reasonability.
The Congress attempted twice to vacate President Martin Vizcarra under the same grounds of “permanent moral incapacity”. The first attempt, on September 18th 2020, failed by a significant number of votes. However, an important legal action arose by the then-President Vizcarra who requested the Constitutional Court to interpret the constitutional requirements to vacate the President on the grounds of “permanent moral incapacity,” joined by the injunction to suspend the vacation process until the Court hands over its judgement. The injunction was dismissed, and the Court decided, after the success of vacating President Vizcarra, to schedule the hearings on November 18th.
However, the order dismissing the injunction unfolds relevant criteria regarding the vacancy process on the grounds of “permanent moral incapacity”. The Constitutional Court set the threshold in “undisputable and unobjectionable facts that deteriorate seriously the institution of the Presidency and that make impossible, in a permanent manner, to who occupies the seat to continue doing so”