LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra will face an impeachment hearing on Friday after the country’s constitutional court on Thursday rejected his appeal to delay congressional efforts to remove him from his post.
The court´s president, Marianella Ledesma, told local radio RPP that judges had voted by five to two to reject an urgent petition by Vizcarra asking that Congress suspend a debate on whether to impeach him for “moral incapacity.”
The court however admitted - by six to one votes - another lawsuit lodged by the president to determine whether Congress exceeded its powers by seeking to impeach him, starting a process that could take up to two months to reach a conclusion.
This means that on Friday, Vizcarra or his lawyer must face Congress, where he has no party representation, at a time when the copper-rich Andean nation is in the midst of an economic recession and one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus.
Lawmakers voted last week to impeach Vizcarra due to “moral incapacity” in a case involving the alleged irregular contracts worth $49,500 awarded to a little-known singer named Richard Cisneros.
The scandal broke after leaked audio recordings were shared in Congress by opposition lawmakers of Vizcarra discussing meetings with the singer. Some lawmakers alleged the recordings showed him trying to downplay his ties to the performer. He has rejected the claims as “without any foundation.”
Ledesma said the court had rejected Vizcarra´s argument for its urgent intervention in part because the likelihood of the impeachment motion´s success looked increasingly slim.
“In light of the statements made by the main leaders and congressional benches that they will not support the (motion) the risk of this happening has weakened,” she said.
A total of 67 members of the 130-member Congress approved the start of impeachment proceedings, while impeachment itself needs 87 votes in order to remove Vizcarra from office.
Carmen Omonte, a spokeswoman for the center-right party that has the second biggest group in Congress with 22 votes, Alliance for Progress, said on Thursday that they would not support the motion.
“The president should not be afraid and simply go to Congress with serenity,” Omonte told reporters.
A spokesman for the largest party, center-right Accion Popular, which has 25 votes, said it would wait for Vizcarra’s defense before making a decision.
An Ipsos poll released this week suggested 79% of Peruvians wanted Vizcarra to complete his term, which expires in July 2021.
Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Diane Craft
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