New Peru Impeachment Bid Advances With Support of Key Party

(Bloomberg) -- Another attempt at ousting Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is gaining traction as the biggest opposition party agreed to back the reopening of an impeachment debate in Congress.

Popular Force signed a motion drawn up by leftist parties to restart the impeachment process but hasn’t yet decided if it will support Kuczynski’s ouster, lawmaker Cecilia Chacon told Peru’s state television on Thursday. The party will eventually make a decision after the president concludes his testimony on March 16 to a congressional committee investigating the so-called Carwash bribery case, she added.

Legislators are seeking to question the president about contracts signed between Odebrecht SA and his investment banking firm Westfield Capital Ltd when he was a government minister over a decade ago. Lawmakers allege he lied to Congress about the issue last year and this week renewed calls for him to quit. A Dec. 21 move to impeach Kuczynski fell short of the required votes after a group of Popular Force’s lawmakers led by Kenji Fujimori rebelled and supported the president.

Ousting him won’t be straightforward as several parties are divided on the issue, with some legislators warning a new process for the second time in three months will increase political instability and hurt the economy.

“Things are difficult for the president, but he has some leeway with congressman allied with Kenji,” said Luis Benavente, director of Vox Populi, a Lima-based polling firm. “It won’t be easy to get the votes to impeach him.”

Kuczynski also has the tacit support from Alberto Fujimori, who he pardoned three days after the last impeachment vote. The former autocrat likely holds sway over some members of Popular Force, Benavente said. Speaking Monday via Twitter, Alberto Fujimori urged lawmakers to show “restraint and a responsible attitude.”

Peru’s constitution allows for a swift impeachment process, with the last one taking barely a week from start to finish. The motion, which was presented to Congress on Thursday, requires at least 52 votes to pass in an initial reading and 87 in a final vote. Peru’s Congress is unicameral and has 130 members.

The turf war between Kenji and his sister Keiko, who leads Popular Force, will be key to Kuczynski’s survival. There are currently 84 opposition lawmakers likely to vote for impeachment, though additional defections from Popular Force party could reduce that number to 74, Teneo Intelligence, a political risk advisory service, said in an emailed note.

“The risk for Keiko is that if she backs impeachment and it flounders, it would be a major setback for her leadership, so she may yet retreat,” Teneo said.

Kuczynski has rejected calls to resign, and said Wednesday there are no grounds for forcing him out. Popular Force says he should step aside to make way for First Vice President Martin Vizcarra, who can count on their support.

“They want to judge him for things that happened before his presidency. That’s destabilizing the country,” cabinet chief Mercedes Araoz told reporters in Lima. “We have to respect the constitutional mandate.”

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