LIMA: Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski offered to resign on Wednesday after vote-buying allegations ensnared his centre-right government on the eve of an impeachment vote, capping months of political turmoil in one of Latin America’s most stable economies.
Kuczynski, a 79-year-old former Wall Street banker who once held US citizenship, promised a constitutional and orderly transition of power and blamed his departure on the opposition’s persistent efforts to depict him as corrupt.
“The best for the country is that I resign as president of the republic because I don’t want to be an obstacle for the nation’s search for a path to unity and harmony,” Kuczynski said in a pre-recorded speech that was televised after he departed the presidential palace in a car.
Even some of his staunchest defenders called for him to step down, although opposition lawmakers signalled they might not accept his resignation.
“He’s facing serious corruption allegations,” Daniel Salaverry, the spokesman of the biggest party in Congress, said on local broadcaster RPP. “He didn’t even offer explanations, much less apologize.”
Popular Force started releasing a stream of secret recordings on Tuesday that appeared to show Kuczynski’s allies offering a lawmaker lucrative public work contracts in exchange for help in defeating a second impeachment vote.
Kuczynski said the recordings were part of a malicious campaign to depict him as corrupt that started shortly after he took office. He stressed that no corruption allegation had been proven.
Kuczynski’s downfall marked a spectacular reversal for a man who was elected in 2016 amid hopes he would turbocharge growth while cleaning up notorious government corruption and modernizing the Andean nation of some 30 million people.
Markets that had cheered Kuczynski’s rise to power rallied on news of his premature departure on Wednesday, amid expectations it would end the uncertainty that has loomed over Peru since the opposition first sought to oust him in December.
Even if Congress decides to reject Kuczynski’s resignation and oust him immediately in a vote late on Thursday instead, Vice President Martin Vizcarra would replace him.
A former governor of a copper-rich mining region, Vizcarra has been serving as Peru’s ambassador to Canada since September and will return to Lima from Ottawa late on Thursday or early Friday, two sources said.
Kuczynski had been scheduled to welcome Donald Trump on the US president’s first visit to Latin America next month, where many of the region’s leaders plan to pressure Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to enact democratic reforms.
A White House official, speaking on background, said Trump still plans to attend the summit.
Kuczynski unexpectedly survived an impeachment bid in December with the help of Alberto Fujimori and pardoned the former autocrat three days later as he forged an alliance with Fujimori’s son, Kenji.