- The final vote in Congress was 97 votes in favor, 26 votes against, and no abstentions.
- “Today is not a day of celebration,” Sagasti said.
- With the entry of Sagasti, Peru has had three presidents in a week.
After being left without a president twice in a week, Peru’s Congress on Monday elected Francisco Sagasti, 76, as the new interim president of the country. The urgent vote served to avoid the power vacuum after the resignation this Sunday of the previous interim president.
The final vote in Congress was 97 votes in favor, 26 votes against, and no abstentions. Manuel Merino, the previous interim president, served briefly, having been in office for less than a week.
His appointment, after the impeachment of his predecessor, Martín Vizcarra, by a second vote of no confidence in just a few weeks, provoked tough days of protests, repressed by the police.
The clashes left a balance of two dead– Jack Bryan Pintado, 22 years old and Inti Sotelo, 24 years old— 100 wounded, and dozens missing. The force of the street was the one that determined the exit of Merino.
Vizcarra was popular with many Peruvians, but unpopular amongst legislators, owing to his push for anti-corruption measures and attempts to curb parliamentary immunity. The move by Peru’s Congress to impeach him sparked days of protests that led to the deaths of two men.
The single list presented to Congress this Monday, after many comings and goings, was made up of Francisco Sagasti from the centrist Purple Party, Mirtha Vásquez from the left-wing Broad Front, Luis Roel from the center-right Popular Action, and Matilde Fernández from conservative We Are Peru.
Not a Day Of Celebrations
In his inauguration speech as the president, Sagasti dedicated his first words to those who were killed and injured in the protests. “Today is not a day of celebration,” Sagasti said, striking a somber tone in his first words after taking office in Congress.
“We cannot go back, bring them back to life, but we can take action from Congress, from the executive, so that this does not happen again,” said the interim president.
He added that there is an urgent need to improve the legal framework in the country so that such an occurrence doesn’t happen again. He, in a way, defended the demonstrations that recently rocked the country, and explained that it is a cry for reforms and changes that are taking Peruvians to the streets.
Sagasti is a key member of the team of the leader of the Purple Party, Julio Guzmán, of recognized democratic credentials, and has been part of the World Bank and promoter of a think tank in the 1990s called Agenda Peru.
Known in Peru as “Don Quixote,” Sagasti will lead the country until July 28, when he will hand over the position to the president, who will be chosen in the elections next April.
With the entry of Sagasti, Peru has had three presidents in a week, a record for one of the most praised countries in South America. Once noted for its good economic performance, Peru has now been hit hard by COVID-19.
While Congress was voting for a new interim president, the Constitutional Court debated the motion of censure against former President Martín Vizcarra. Although the session was brought forward to Monday, the decision will not be taken until Thursday, when a ruling is expected to be issued specifying what the “permanent moral incapacity” consists of.