Peru’s new president, Pedro Castillo, will be sworn in as president in Congress this Wednesday, when the country celebrates its bicentennial of independence. He is expected to give his first speech as president, and expose his Government plan for the 2021-2026 period.
The president-elect of Peru, Pedro Castillo, is preparing to take the reins of a divided country on Wednesday and in which several challenges await him.
The new president has made various promises such as modifying the Constitution, improving the economic and social situation and getting the country out of the pandemic. But his promises are as great as the obstacles that await him.
A situation of economic crisis exacerbated by the pandemic
In recent years, Peru’s economy has plummeted.
In 2020, GDP plummeted by 11%, mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent strict quarantine that has intensified inequality in a country where almost 60% of the urban population lives from informal jobs.
Employment fell an average of 20% between April and December 2020 and the slowdown in economic activity as well as unemployment produced an increase of around six percentage points in poverty, plunging almost two million people into this condition.
In 2020, the poverty rate reached around 27% of the population.
According to the World Bank, “the challenge for the Peruvian economy lies in accelerating GDP growth, promoting shared prosperity, and providing its citizens with protection against shocks, either generalized or individual in nature.”
The financial institution adds that “it will be necessary to enhance the effectiveness of the State in the provision of public services and in regulatory quality, generate protection plans, as well as provide a better connectivity infrastructure and formulate policies to reduce rigidities in factor markets. and products ”.
In health terms, the authorities reported more than 190,000 deaths from coronavirus to this date. The country of 32 million inhabitants thus becomes the country with the highest mortality rate in the world, while vaccination progresses at a slow pace.
However, Castillo has vowed to increase intensive care care, provide more oxygen and vaccinate everyone over 18 years of age before the year is out.
The prospect of complex governance
But there is an even bigger challenge than all those mentioned and that will define the mandate of the new president: it is his freedom to govern in the midst of strong opposition in Congress.
The last governments of Peru have faced strong opposition, mainly from the political current of Fujimori, led by Castillo’s opponent in the elections: Keiko Fujimori.
Castillo’s party will have 37 legislators in Peru’s unicameral Congress, while the party that represents Fujimori, Fuerza Popular, will have 24 seats out of 130, making it the second strongest bloc.
In such a polarized political context, nothing guarantees that Castillo’s term will come to an end. In fact, an alliance leading the opposition won the vote to head Congress on Monday.
This opposition alliance, made up of representatives of four center-right and right-wing parties and led by the centrist deputy María del Carmen Alva, of the Popular Action party, obtained 69 votes compared to the 10 that the list made up entirely of congressmen from the ultraconservative Popular Renovation. while 50 parliamentarians voted blank.
We welcome the election of the new president of the Congress, María del Carmen Alva. We express our willingness to work together on this #PeruDelBicentennial
– Pedro Castillo Terrones (@PedroCastilloTe) July 27, 2021
The third list, presented by the ruling Peru Libre party together with the leftist Together for Peru (JP) and the centrists Somos Peru and Partido Morado, was controversially excluded on the grounds that former minister Flor Pablo (Partido Morado) had no parliamentary group assigned at the time of submission of the application.
However, in a speech after the vote, Alva said that “Congress will guarantee the balance of powers that the country needs” and added that she was open to working with the government “within the framework of a respectful dialogue.”
The new president of Congress, who had the support of Fuerza Popular, highlighted the need to seek consensus in a hemicycle divided into nine different political forces and to dialogue with the Executive. “Let’s end the conflict between the powers,” he said.
Castillo, an unknown political figure
Until the beginning of this year, Pedro Castillo, who worked as a rural school teacher and teacher union leader, was unknown to Peruvians and did not enter into the forecasts to be the new president.
But, instead of harming him, his anonymity along with his reformist program had a favorable echo with a part of the population, in a country tired of its traditional political class and burdened by Covid-19 and the economic situation.
The new president garnered strong support from rural Peruvians and the country’s poorest areas, with promises such as increased taxes on mining companies to invest in the public health system and education.
At the same time, his unexpected political rise has shaken the country’s political and business elite, despite his efforts to distance himself from the discourse of leftist governments in the region, such as Venezuela and Cuba.
Keiko Fujimori, who narrowly lost to him in the second round on June 6, vowed to fight Castillo.
The last elections in peru, one more example of the country’s political instability
The results of the second round were delayed as Fujimori had alleged, without strong evidence, that the vote was plagued by electoral fraud.
The country has witnessed major protests in recent weeks by supporters of Castillo and Fujimori. Castillo’s supporters urged the electoral authorities to respect the will of the people, while those of his contender wanted an investigation into their candidate’s allegations of fraud.
But international observers, including the Organization of American States and the European Union, announced that no evidence of wrongdoing had been found.
In this context and in the face of the country’s polarization, Castillo has declared on several occasions after his electoral victory was confirmed that he would seek to form a pluralist government and has declared that his work team will be made up of people of different political tendencies.
In this Wednesday’s ceremony to be held in the Congress of Peru, the King of Spain, Felipe VI, will be invited as guests, as well as several presidents and senior representatives of countries in the region, including the Argentine Alberto Fernández and the Bolivian Luis Arce .
With Reuters and EFE