President Pedro Castillo of Peru will have to swear in his fifth cabinet since taking office in July of last year, after accepting the resignation of Prime Minister Aníbal Torres on Thursday night amid a lengthy battle between the government and Congress.
Mr. Torres had last week challenged Congress to hold a vote of confidence as a way to pressure lawmakers amid tense institutional relations. The legislative branch, however, said conditions to hold such a vote had not been met. The country’s top court sided with Congress, essentially preventing the government from enabling Mr. Castillo to dissolve the legislature.
The government has conveniently interpreted Congress’s dismissal as a rejection of the confidence vote. Peruvian law states that if such a refusal happens twice, the president has the prerogative to dissolve the single-chamber Congress and call new legislative elections. This happened in 2019, during the Martín Vizcarra administration.
Facing a fierce opposition that cripples his ability to govern, Mr. Castillo seems willing to engage in an “all-or-nothing” strategy against a legislature that has already tried (but failed) to oust him on two separate occasions, as he faces six criminal investigations for alleged corruption.
Recently, Mr. Castillo called the Organization of American States (OAS) to supervise the state of democracy in the Andean nation, as his government fights renewed pressure to oust him in courts and Congress.
Mr. Castillo said during an address to the nation that he will reshuffle the cabinet in the coming days. His administration has been so unstable that, by August, he had named a new cabinet member every six days on average. Aníbal Torres, who resigned on Thursday, had already tried to step down earlier this year, only to have his resignation attempt rejected by the president.
The Castillo era is yet another example of the Peruvian political turmoil of recent years. In 2020, the country had three heads of state in the space of a week.
The Peruvian constitution gives Congress plenty of leeway to oust its presidents. Instead of an impeachment per se, heads of state can be removed from office if they are judged “morally unfit” by a single two-thirds majority vote.
And, similar to other presidential systems in Brazil and the U.S., Peruvian law is particularly broad on what can constitute an ejectable offense.