June 4, 2019 / 6:05 PM / 6 months ago

Peru Congress debates ahead of confidence vote on government

Peruvian Prime Minister Salvador Del Solar speaks to Congress as he asks for the approval to reform political bills in Lima, Peru June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Augusto Haro NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s Congress was set to continue debate on Wednesday ahead of a confidence vote on the government called by President Martin Vizcarra as part of his effort to pressure lawmakers to pass his anti-graft proposals.

Debate in the unicameral legislature began on Tuesday and was suspended late in the evening after more than nine hours of argument. It was scheduled to resume early on Wednesday.

If the opposition-controlled Congress votes “no confidence,” Vizcarra could invoke a constitutional measure that would authorise him to dissolve Congress and call new legislative elections.

“It is urgent to save our democracy from corruption. It is urgent to prevent people who are guilty of criminal offences from representing us. It is urgent to promote the strengthening of political parties,” Prime Minister Salvador Del Solar, a Vizcarra ally, said at the start of the debate.

Under Peru’s constitution, if Congress fails to grant a vote of confidence in a government twice, the president can dissolve Congress. The current Congress has already issued a vote of no-confidence once during this government — in 2017, when Vizcarra was vice president.

The heightened tensions between Congress and the president have ushered in a new period of political uncertainty in one of Latin America’s most stable economies.

Vizcarra’s threat triggered immediate cries of “coup” from allies of opposition lawmakers and could stir some debate over its legality, potentially distracting the government from efforts to mediate disputes over mining and oil operations and to pass a labour reform package.

Vizcarra’s proposals include measures aimed at cleaning up campaign financing, strengthening political parties and ending parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

But his political reform package has languished in committee discussions and the opposition has shelved or voted down other proposals.

Reporting by Marco Aquino; writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Darren Schuettler

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