Peruvian Congress set to vote on President Kuczynski’s political fate today

By December 21, 2017

The anaconda is a constrictor native to the Amazon basin. If President Kuczynski feels a tightening sensation this morning he can be forgiven for thinking one of these creatures has travelled from Brazil and wrapped itself around his throat.

In what is perhaps the biggest day of his political career,  Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (also referred to by the acronym ‘PPK’) now finds himself simultaneously at the very top and at the very bottom of the political totem pole as he awaits for the decision of 44 of his fellow Peruvian congressmen and women who will cast a decisive vote that determines his future.

PPK delivered an impassioned message last night where he assured the public that he will meet his fate tomorrow with ‘a tranquility of conscience, a firmness of spirit and faith in the institutions of democracy.’ Conceding his flaws as a communicator, he claimed himself to be a man who is transparent and free from corruption.

The source of PPK’s misfortune has its source in Brazil, after a money trail to the tune of $782,000 had been linked to the President paid by the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht by way of the US-based company Westfield Capital, which belonged to the President. If members of the Peruvian Congress are convinced that there is sufficient evidence of improper payments then it will result in an impeachment.

The Odebrecht scandal has to date ensnared a number of executives around Latin America with parties in Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia being either arrested or charged on counts of bribery of public officials to build public facilities and monuments. In a surprise twist this week, after weeks of denials, the Peruvian President admitted to receiving the money but continued to insist that no wrongdoing took place.

The President’s staunchest rival so far has been Keiko Fujimori, who lost the election to him in 2016. Fujimori has also been dogged by claims of corruption and her family name is associated with the shady dealings that have become commonplace in Peru and Latin American countries at large—her father, former president Alberto Fujimori, is currently serving a 25-year sentence for corruption and human rights violations. In circumstances that are turning increasingly farcical, former presidents Olanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo have also been caught in this corruption dragnet, with the latter currently in prison awaiting trial and the former still at large in Venezuela.

If the motion to impeach PPK is to succeed, his rivals will need two-thirds of the Peruvian Congress’ 130 seats to have him removed from office. Unlike the bicameral legislative system in the US, Peru’s single-body Congress gives him little room for error, especially considering that his party Peruvians for Change was afforded a razor-thin mandate at last year’s election and holds a paltry 18 seats.

Today is Thursday. President Kuczynski will have an hour to speak before his colleagues vote on his political future. The man needs 44 votes to continue as president. But even if he makes it to Friday, he would be naive to think that his rivals would allow him to breathe easier for the remainder of his 5-year term.