LIMA (Reuters) – Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra on Tuesday said opposition lawmakers were irresponsibly “playing with democracy” by seeking to impeach him and that he would answer their “baseless” charges against him in Congress later this week.
In doing so, Vizcarra said he would seek to preempt a congressional summons to appear before lawmakers on Monday, Nov. 9. The charges against the president relate to alleged bribes for public works tenders when he was a governor.
Vizcarra said it was critical to end political uncertainty as the world’s second-largest copper producer seeks to recover its health and economy amid a pandemic that has so far generated 906,500 cases and 34,500 deaths in Peru.
“It would be extremely irresponsible for us to be on a razor’s edge five months before the elections, playing with democracy,” he told journalists during a trip to the north of the country to inspect public works programs.
The move to oust Vizcarra follows media reports that the president allegedly accepted bribes of about 2.3 million soles ($637,000) from two companies that won public works tenders when he was governor of Peru’s southern Moquegua region.
On Monday night, lawmakers approved the holding of an impeachment debate in a 60-40 vote with 18 abstentions.
For the motion to succeed, it must be approved by at least 87 of a total of 130 votes in the legislature.
It is the second impeachment bid in two months. An earlier motion to remove Vizcarra over allegedly irregular government contracts to a little-known singer failed with just 32 votes in its favor.
Vizcarra, 57, does not have his own party representation in Congress. He was installed in 2018 after the resignation of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski due to a corruption case, and his term ends in July.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino, writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Tom Brown)