Peru was sworn in as its third president in just half a week on Tuesday, after the country’s fragile political system was shocked.
Sagasti will now have five months to strike before the run-up to the April 2021 presidential election amid widespread epidemics and public displeasure with the controversial political elite. Here’s what you need to know.
Denisse Rodriguez-Olivari, a Peruvian political scientist at the University of Humboldt in Berlin, Germany, says the current crisis is the culmination of four years of clashes between the Peruvian president and parliament.
The convention set a major direction for the president and ministers, designed to stop the government from pursuing policy, which Rodriguez-Olivari described as an attempt by its members of the legislature to highlight the conflict.
Keiko Fujimori, the leader of the People’s Party, is officially winning the 2016 presidential election, but her party has won the most seats in parliament. “We will turn our expressions of opinion into law,” she said, vowing to rule by parliament and establish a weak relationship with the president.
The power struggle is particularly intense in the field of education, with lawmakers repeatedly calling for the removal of the Minister of Education and slow reforms that will affect private universities.
On November 9, Congress voted to indict Vizcarra after allegations of corruption related to an approved construction project when he was governor of Moquegua in southern Peru from 2011 to 2014. Vizcarra has denied the allegations, but pleaded not guilty.
“History and the people of Peru will judge,” he said in a subsequent speech after a vote of indictment.
As stipulated in the constitution, Vizcarra was replaced by then-Congressman Manuel Merino, who had just five days before resigning under pressure from mass protests, in which two people were killed and dozens injured.
Sagasti, a 76-year-old Member of Parliament representing the Purple Party (Partido Morado), then appointed by parliament to replace Merino, became Peru’s fourth president in less than five years. He wields power when people have expressed a willingness to take to the streets to express political discontent.
Why Peru strikes
Sagasti’s appointment went either way to overthrow the people, as his party was the only one to vote as a group against the Vizcarra allegations.
In his first address, the new president called for “pardon on behalf of the state” for the deaths of two protesters, Jack Bryan Pintado Sanchez and Jordan Inti Sotelo Camargo, and promised to replace the injured.
He also called on all Peruvians to work together to build a “free republic.”
Peruvian voters are unlikely to be satisfied
One problem is that political parties form and dissolve at alarming rates and often send in poor quality candidates.
Rodriguez-Olivari, who emphasized that voting was necessary. “As a Peruvian, I can not remember the last time I voted for confidence instead of seeing what is available and making choices.”
In his speech at Sagasti, an engineer, technician and former World Bank official, he acknowledged that the majority of the political elite did not “face the great challenges we face.
He said many former governors could not “meet the legitimate wishes of the majority of Peru people”.
Some citizens have called for a new constitution to amend the rules on the removal of the president, among other things.
And Rodriguez-Olivari says the rules governing political parties and factions need to change as well. But that was orderly when Congress “had no incentive to carry out big reforms because they would be shot in the foot.”
What will happen next under the Sagasti presidency
Sagasti is now in charge of the country at an incredibly challenging time. Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 2021, with Sagasti’s successor set to take office in July.
While the progress of the legislature may be limited by the upcoming election, Sagasti has attracted a lot of public attention, visiting some of the injured by police and speaking to protesters as a show of force.
Rodriguez-Olivari said his promotion as prime minister could bring about stability measures, but would be difficult to put in place.
“Some people think the protests will stop just because Merino left, but I think it ‘s just a blow to the pressure cooker that has been built for years,” she said. “People realize that by applying some pressure in a few days they can achieve something.”
Rodriguez-Olivari said he expects Peru to be cautious and vocal in ensuring that there is no progress on education reform and anti-corruption efforts, as well as promoting justice for human rights abuses against protesters and widespread protests. She descfribes Peruvian society as a kind of “citizen 2.0” ready to push for change before the 200th anniversary of the country’s independence last year.
“Unfortunately, it started with two deaths, but I do not think it will stop now.” “People are united in thinking that things can be done differently and they are willing to do anything.”
CNN’s Claudia Rebaza reports from London and Stefano Pozzebon reports from Bogota.