Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra dissolved Congress on Monday, exercising seldom used executive powers to shut down the opposition-controlled legislature that he accuses of stonewalling attempts to curb widespread corruption.
In a televised address, Vizcarra told the South American nation that he had decided to call new legislative elections after lawmakers proceeded with holding a controversial vote to replace almost all the members of the Constitutional Tribunal.
“We are making history that will be remembered by future generations,” he said. “And when they do, I hope they understand the magnitude of this fight that we are in today against an endemic evil that has caused much harm to our country.”
The stunning events in Peru could spell new instability as the nation grapples with the fallout of the Odebrecht corruption scandal, plummeting faith in public institutions and an inexperienced president struggling to govern.
Nonetheless, the decision is likely to be widely welcomed by Peruvians who have been clamoring for new congressional elections to replace the majority party, led by a former first daughter and presidential candidate who is now behind bars.
“Peruvians will not shed many tears,” said Steven Levitsky, a Harvard University political scientist who has extensively studied the nation.
Opposition leaders immediately denounced the move as the work of a “dictator” and proceeded with pushing an impeachment vote against him, though it would carry only symbolic weight since their positions in Congress are now considered vacated.
“This was the plan from the start,” said Milagros Salazar, a spokeswoman for Fuerza Popular, the party of Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori who was once a commanding force herself in the country’s politics but is now jailed. “They think this is a monarchy, that’s what they want to impose.”
Vizcarra became chief of state last year after President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned following revelations that his private consulting firm had received undisclosed payments from Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant that has admitted to doling out millions of dollars to politicians around Latin America in exchange for lucrative public works contracts.