Peru elects third president in a week

Marco Aquino
·2-min read

Peru's congress has elected legislator Francisco Sagasti as interim president in an attempt to defuse a sharp political crisis in the Andean nation after angry protests and the departure of two presidents in the past week.

Sagasti, 76, from the centrist Morado Party, won enough votes to head the unicameral congress on Monday.

The result means he would constitutionally assume the presidency of the country ahead of national elections called for April.

It also makes Sagasti Peru's third president in a week, after interim leader Manuel Merino resigned on Sunday, five days after being sworn in following the ousting of centrist Martin Vizcarra.

Sagasti, a former World Bank official and engineer, faces a formidable challenge to bring stability to the world's no. 2 copper producer, which was already hard hit by COVID-19 and is heading for its worst economic contraction in a century.

Sagasti, who received 97 votes in favor with 26 against, is set to complete the current government's mandate that ends in July 2021 and will include the holding of general elections on April 11.

Peru's congress overnight had knocked back another candidate, Rocio Silva-Santisteban, a leftist human rights defender, raising concerns over a power vacuum.

"The main thing for Peru is to regain stability and for this nightmare to end," legislator Alberto de Belaunde, from the same Morado Party said ahead of the Monday vote.

The recent crisis started when Vizcarra, a popular independent who has long clashed with congress over his anti-corruption stance, was impeached and removed from office over allegations of graft, which he denies.

It was the second impeachment Vizcarra had faced in two months, having survived the first in September.

Merino, who as president of the congress led the impeachments, succeeded Vizcarra.

But he too resigned, after two people died in protests against his fledgling government and MPs threatened to impeach him unless he stood down.

Citi said in a note earlier on Monday Sagasti would likely help calm the situation and support rattled markets.

Sovereign bonds fell on Monday amid fears of a political vacuum and the currency hit a record low.