Peru dispatch: new legislation may portend the overdue return of a bicameral national Congress Dispatches
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Peru dispatch: new legislation may portend the overdue return of a bicameral national Congress

Peruvian law students from the Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias Políticas, Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco are reporting for JURIST on law-related events in and affecting Perú. All of them are from CIED (Centro de Investigación de los Estudiantes de Derecho, a student research center in UNSAAC’s faculty of law dedicated to spreading legal information and improving legal culture through study and research, promoting critical and reflective debate to contribute to the development of the country. Samanta Berenice Chavez Quispe is a law student from UNSAAC and a member of CIED. She files this dispatch from Cusco.

Peru is organized under the principle of separation of powers, which is why there are three powers or branches, each independent and autonomous: the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch. The executive branch is composed of the president, vice presidents and ministers responsible for directing state policy. The legislative branch is composed of 130 congressmen and is mainly in charge of making laws and exercising political control over the actions of the executive branch. The judicial branch is in charge of administering justice.

Currently, the Congress (legislative branch) is unicameral and the immediate re-election of congressmen is not allowed. In search of constitutional reform, therefore, on November 16, 2023, bills 660, 724, 792 and 1044 were approved in the first vote for the return of the bicameral system, which would also include the immediate re-election of congressmen. This passed with 93 votes in favor. For this bill to become a reality, as it is a matter of constitutional reform, it still needs a second vote, which must be carried out in a following legislative session, according to art. 206 of the Political Constitution of Peru, that is, next year.

Bicamerality is not new, since bicamerality existed during our republican history until 1992. For example, with the 1979 constitution, bicamerality consisted of a chamber of deputies with 180 members and a chamber of senators with 60 members, for an electoral roll of 12 million people in the 80’s. In 1992, after the self-coup of Alberto Fujimori, a Democratic Constituent Congress was convened to approve the 1993 constitution, in which the congress became unicameral, at that time with 80 congressmen. The number has since increased to 130.

It is necessary to know that in 2018 there was also a desire to carry out this reform, and a referendum was held. But this was negative since the Peruvian population was against it. One of the factors was the rejection of the performance of that congress. Last year the same issue was also voted on in Congress, however, only 66 votes (less than a majority) were obtained in favor, and the bill failed to pass.

Unicameralism has given birth to a powerful congress without limits, that year after year began to approve unconstitutional laws and exercised poor political control, looking after only its interests, bringing with it a scarce true representation of the will of the Peruvian people. This worsened with each congress elected in recent years, thus bringing unpopularity and social discontent. It should be noted that bicameralism is good theoretically speaking, since there would be deputies with legislative initiatives and senators with the power to review these initiatives and thus have a second evaluation to avoid unconstitutional laws that are approved every day in Peru, therefore there would be a filter. However, it is also necessary to evaluate the number of senators and deputies, considering that currently in Peru there are 25 million people registered on the electoral roll.

While it is true, that the current bill is unpopular due to the low acceptance of Congress and its actions, Congress seems not to have changed, as it continues to make impertinent decisions and make counter-reforms to the reforms previously made not only in electoral matters but also in education and others that affect the population every day. One example is that on November 16, a bonus of 9,900 soles was approved for all congressional workers, which would imply an expense of 35 million soles, a bonus that already been granted in April of this year. With the background of the congressmen, Peruvians believe that once again it is for the congressmen themselves that they collect part of the salary of their workers since it is because of them that they got those jobs.

On the other hand, since June, Congress, with Bill Nº 6155-2023, has sought to eliminate open, simultaneous and mandatory primary elections, proposing to modify the mechanisms for selecting candidates of political organizations in primary elections, so that they are elected under any of the three modalities; vote of citizens, vote of members and through delegates; to which the National Elections Jury issued its opinion, stating the unviability of said project since it goes against a law that has not yet been put into practice, Law 30998, in addition to leaving it as it is beneficial for the democratization of political organizations and the strengthening of democracy.

Social discontent in Peru continues to increase, causing a good reform to be seen as bad due to poorly made decisions in a congress, which instead of reconciling with the people, moves further and further away.