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Peru lawmaker files last-ditch legal appeal over Congress closure

FILE PHOTO: Peru's President Martin Vizcarra attends a swearing-in ceremony at the government palace in Lima, Peru October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

LIMA (Reuters) - The head of Peru’s dissolved Congress presented a legal appeal to the country’s top court on Thursday seeking to suspend the closure of parliament on the grounds that President Martín Vizcarra had exceeded his constitutional powers.

Vizcarra, a centrist, dissolved Congress late last month and swore in a new Cabinet last week following a lengthy stand-off between with lawmakers over his anti-corruption reforms.

Pedro Olaechea, the former Congress president who now leads the smaller permanent parliamentary commission, submitted the appeal requesting the “arbitrary” dissolution of Congress be suspended, according to the document seen by Reuters.

The move marks one of the last throws of the dice for Congress after Vizcarra appeared to outmanoeuvre the opposition-controlled legislature, which had long blocked his reforms.

His move to dissolve Congress received support from the armed forces, police and Peru’s voters, with a poll on Thursday showing his popular support had jumped around a third to 82%, the highest level during his administration.

The stand-off with Congress also involved a conflict over the appointment of new judges to Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal, the top court, adding an extra edge to proceedings.

The past three years in Peru have been marked by repeated clashes between the executive and legislative branches and back-to-back corruption scandals, including one that led former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to resign in March last year.

Reporting by Marco Aquino and Dante Alva; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Paul Tait