Peru opposition leader skeptical president's victory will last

Peru opposition leader skeptical president's victory will last
Lawmakers of Peru's opposition-ruled Congress decide whether to remove Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski from office in Lima, Peru, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo
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By Mitra Taj

LIMA (Reuters) – Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s political troubles will likely continue despite his surprise victory over a bid in Congress to oust him this week, a key opposition leader said on Saturday, citing ongoing graft probes and opposing demands from allies.

Jose Chlimper, secretary general of the right-wing Popular Force, said his party could eventually emerge stronger from this week’s political crisis, despite failing to garner enough votes in the 130-member Congress to remove Kuczynski from office.

“For us having 71 lawmakers was an asset but also a liability. Because whatever Congress did was our fault,” Chlimper told Reuters in a rare interview.

The party, which grew out of the populist movement of imprisoned ex-president Alberto Fujimori, sought to remove Kuczynski from office this week over business links he once denied having to a company at the centre of a massive graft scandal.

Ten Popular Force lawmakers broke ranks to keep a “presidential vacancy” motion from succeeding.

Chlimper called the defections a painful “betrayal” but said the rest of Popular Force lawmakers have reaffirmed their commitment to staying in the party and voting as a bloc.

Kuczynski, on the other hand, could see the cross-party alliance that defended him this week evaporate going forward, said Chlimper. “I don’t see how he can come out stronger,” he said.

Chlimper said Kuczynski lured the rebel Popular Force lawmakers with a promise to free their movement’s political leader, Fujimori, from prison – an accusation denied by Kuczynski’s government.

The dissident faction was led by Fujimori’s youngest son, Kenji, who has challenged his sister Keiko’s leadership of their father’s following and who could receive a boost if the once-popular patriarch is released from prison.

Kuczynski would lose the support of Fujimori’s left-leaning foes if he makes good on the deal to secure the elder Fujimori’s release, said Chlimper.

“In coming days, the left may have achieved what Fujimori’s supporters have been unable to: a pardon for Fujimori,” Chlimper said.

At the same time, ongoing probes in Congress and in the attorney general’s and comptroller’s offices threaten to implicate Kuczynski in new allegations of wrongdoing, he added.

“His allies are going to have to explain themselves for the documents that will keep coming out,” said Chlimper.

“This isn’t a picture. It’s a video. And we’re going to keep seeing the scenery change in coming weeks and months,” Chlimper said.

(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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