Peru’s Congress, dominated by the right-wing opposition, on Friday granted a vote of confidence to the ministerial cabinet of the new leftist president Pedro Castillo, allowing him to continue in office.
After a harsh debate that began on Thursday, the cabinet headed by engineer Guido Bellido got 73 votes in favor and 50 against, with no abstentions. He needed 63 to survive (out of 124 MPs present at the session).
“Consequently, the question of trust has been approved,” declared the head of Congress, the opposition member María del Carmen Alva, after the vote.
After passing the first test of his mandate that began a month ago, Castillo thanked Congress on Twitter and stated that “the search for consensus will allow us to govern together with the people and for the development of public policies of a social nature.”
If the vote had been rejected, Castillo would have had to appoint another prime minister, replacing Bellido, and reorganize the cabinet. This would affect the government agenda and prolong the uncertainty that exists in Peru since the beginning of the year, when the electoral campaign started, and that is affecting the economy.
Mainly the benches of the ultra-conservative Renovación Popular party and Fuerza Popular, the right-wing populist formation led by Keiko Fujimori, the candidate defeated by Castillo in the June 6 ballot, voted against.
In the debate, the Fujimori legislator Eduardo Castillo had called for a vote against, claiming that it was “a highly questioned cabinet, linked to front groups [de la derrotada guerrilla maoísta] Shining Path ”, which spread terror in Peru between 1980 and 2000.
These types of statements against Castillo and his allies were common during the electoral campaign.
The harsh debate began on Thursday morning, after Bellido presented in the hemicycle the plans of the government that he assumed a month ago, but the session was suspended after 11 hours and resumed this Friday.
Bellido said that the “immediate objectives are to defeat the pandemic produced by covid-19 and reactivate our economy,” without mentioning Castillo’s main electoral promise to convene a constituent assembly, a proposal resisted by his adversaries.
The uncertainty about the cabinet has affected the economy, making the dollar rise and the stock market fall, after a five-year period of clashes between the Executive and the Legislature, which led the country to have three presidents in November 2020.
Analyst Augusto Álvarez Rodrich had predicted that the government would pass the test.
“The government has the votes to obtain confidence,” the analyst told AFP, explaining that Congress sought to avoid fueling the confrontation with the Executive.
“Congress does not want to give the government tools so that it can dissolve it so quickly, when it just began its five-year term,” said Álvarez Rodrich before the debate.
If legislators deny the vote of confidence to the same government twice, the Constitution empowers the president to dissolve Congress and call new parliamentary elections.
Disputes between the new government and the opposition cost Foreign Minister Héctor Béjar his job 10 days ago. He was replaced by Óscar Maúrtua, a career diplomat with no ties to the left who held that position in 2006.
However, Castillo’s rivals hoped that he would make more changes to his cabinet before submitting to the vote of confidence, something that the president rejected. Bellido’s own appointment was highly questioned by the opposition.