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Peru lawmakers to discuss bill to bring forward general elections to end weeks-long protests

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo shows the interior of Peru's Congress.

Peruvian lawmakers are to start debating whether the country should hold early elections this year amid raging protests against President Dina Boluarte.

The congressional debate initially started on Monday to discuss a bill aimed at bringing forward elections in a bid to end weeks of protests and roadblocks that have left dozens dead, but after hours of discussions the MPs left the vote for another day.

The debate was suspended after more than seven hours of talk and will resume Tuesday at 11:00 am (1600 GMT), the legislature said in a statement.

Congress had already moved up elections, which are due in 2026, to April 2024, but Boluarte continued pushing for the polls to be held rather this year as the country has turned into a welter of deadly demonstrations.

"Vote for Peru, for the country, by moving the elections up to 2023," the president said earlier in an address to the nation, adding that lawmakers "have a chance to win the country's trust."

According to a survey by the Institute of Peruvian Studies, 73 percent of Peruvians want elections this year. 

The protests began last month after former president, Pedro Castillo, was ousted and arrested over his attempt to dissolve the parliament and rule by decree. The former head of state, whom the nation's indigenous population identifies as its flag-bearer and voice, has been charged with rebellion among other offenses.

In seven weeks of demonstrations, 48 people -- including one police officer -- have been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters, according to the Ombudsman's Office of Peru.

The demonstrators have also set up dozens of roadblocks, causing shortages of food and fuel in some southern areas.

Also on Monday, hundreds of people marched in the capital Lima's suburb of Huaycan, chanting, "No more deaths, Dina quit now."

In addition to Boluarte's resignation and new elections, the protesters are pushing for dissolution of Congress and a new constitution.

Boluarte has said that if the lawmakers once again refuse to advance elections, she would propose a constitutional reform allowing a first voting round to be held in October and a runoff in December.

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