January 26, 2020 / 9:41 PM / 22 days ago

Peru elects deeply split Congress with right-of-center tilt

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvians elected a fractured Congress with no clear leadership on Sunday, split among 10 parties with a center-right party grabbing the most seats with a tally of 24 out of 130, an Ipsos count of vote data reported by domestic media showed.

An election worker helps a person to cast a vote at a polling station during elections to form a new Congress after President Martin Vizcarra closed the parliament following a political confrontation with the opposition, in Lima, Peru January 26, 2020. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda

The result is a blow to Popular Force, the right-wing opposition party led by Keiko Fujimori, which has lost control of Congress and won fewer than 10% of seats, even as most voters remained supportive of conservative parties.

The party’s diminishing popularity could spell trouble for its chances in Peru’s next presidential election in 2021.

The new legislature replaces one dissolved in September after a long-running battle between President Martin Vizcarra and lawmakers over an anti-corruption drive.

The new balance of power could give Vizcarra a fresh chance to push his package of anti-corruption reforms, staunchly opposed by the opposition majority in Congress. But the legislature could also be stuck in gridlock.

All parties expected to win seats received between 5% and 10% of votes, according to Ipsos, although most seats are poised to go right-of-center parties.

Vizcarra does not have party representation in Congress, but center and left-wing parties have generally supported his agenda.

The special election was triggered last year when Vizcarra used a controversial constitutional provision to close Congress after it repeatedly failed to endorse his plans. The move was deemed legitimate by Peru’s top court this month.

The new Congress will be short-lived and will be replaced by a standard 5-year legislature in 2021, when Peru will also celebrate 200 years of independence.

Fujimori is the daughter of Peru’s ex-President Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year sentence for human rights crimes and graft. She herself was released from jail in November amid a corruption investigation.

The elder Fujimori is a divisive figure who governed between 1990 and 2000 strengthening Peru’s economy, but his administration was beset by rights abuse accusations and graft scandals that ultimately led to his resignation.

Popular Force has been the runner-up in Peru’s last two presidential elections, in 2011 and 2016, when Keiko was its candidate.

Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Clarence Fernandez

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