Peruvians set to vote in referendum on judicial, political overhauls


Peruvians will vote Sunday on a four-question referendum proposed by President Martin Vizcarra and approved by the opposition-controlled Congress after a tough political battle.

More than 24 million people are set to cast their ballot in the mandatory referendum, which in 15 of the Andean nation’s 25 regions will coincide with the second-round of gubernatorial elections.

Vizcarra proposed the referendum on July 28 after secret audio recordings emerged that exposed backroom deals on criminal sentences and promotions by high-ranking judges.

That scandal broke just months after Vizcarra’s predecessor, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, resigned after being accused of hiding his ties to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which has admitted to bid-rigging schemes that involved the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in more than a dozen countries.

Vizcarra proposed a referendum on four questions.

Voters will be asked if they want to replace the current National Council of the Magistrature (CNM), which has come under heavy criticism due to the corruption scandal, with a new body known as the National Board of Justice.

That new entity would be tasked with, among other things, nominating judges and prosecutors and evaluating their performance every three and a half years.

Voters also will be asked whether they think political organizations should be prohibited from receiving contributions that are anonymous, of illicit origin or from people convicted of certain crimes.

A third question will ask voters if they approve a constitutional reform that would prohibit the immediate re-election of Peruvian lawmakers, while the last will ask them if they approve a constitutional reform to establish a bicameral legislature (a Senate and lower house).

“We won’t be able to recover the trust of citizens nor ensure the country’s governability if we do not do away with the plague of corruption,” Vizcarra said this week.

Besides Kuczynski, three other former presidents, Alan Garcia Alejandro Toledo and Ollanta Humala, also have been caught up in the Odebrecht probe, along with main opposition leader and two-time presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori , who is in pre-trial detention.