Peru's PM challenges Congress in new clash between state powers

FILE PHOTO: New legal battle as Peru's attorney general challenges President Pedro Castillo
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LIMA (Reuters) - Peru's prime minister on Tuesday challenged the legislature to a confidence vote, raising tensions once again between state powers in the Andean nation, which has been roiled by political infighting for years.

Peru's left-wing government, led by embattled President Pedro Castillo, has been at odds with the opposition-led Congress since both powers took office last July amid a polarized political background.

"Since this presidential term began, we have found ourselves in a deep political crisis that is nothing but the result of our fragile party and representative systems," Prime Minister Anibal Torres said in a letter calling for the confidence vote.

Congress has twice impeached, but failed to oust, Castillo, who is himself facing several criminal investigations while in office.

Now, the executive's request for a confidence vote represents Castillo's most aggressive attempt yet to fight back.

That is because a confidence vote carries high stakes for both powers.

If Congress issues a vote of no confidence, Castillo's entire Cabinet would have to resign. But that would also allow the government the possibility to call for a second confidence vote, which if also rejected would allow the executive to shut down Congress and call for new legislative elections.

Still, it remains unclear if the confidence vote will be put to a vote in the first place. Congress could try to ignore it under an untested law that regulates what actions can and cannot be subject to a confidence vote.

Tensions between presidents and Congress are not new in Peru. Since 2018, Peruvians have lived under five presidents, two of whom left power before ending their terms due to congressional pressure.

Former Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra also dissolved Congress in 2019 following two votes of no confidence, forcing the election of a new legislature that then impeached and ousted him a year later.

Congressional leaders have yet to address Castillo's request.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino and Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Chris Reese)