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Peru’s new impeachment effort is must-see entertainment

The new effort to impeach President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski offers a high-stakes spectacle of Machiavellian struggles in the vein of Game of Thrones or 48 Laws of Power.

Kuczynski is the target of new, identical proceedings just two months after surviving an impeachment vote. The president allegedly made a deal with Kenji Fujimori to pardon former President Alberto Fujimori in exchange for Kenji thwarting the impeachment vote. In addition to surviving impeachment, the move was an elaborate power play which upends the gameboard for the next effort to oust him.

With Kenji Fujimori and nine of his followers in Popular Force abstaining, the impeachment failed by eight votes. Kuczynski pardoned Alberto Fujimori three days later in a bold move to divide the Popular Force party led by Keiko Fujimori which had been blocking his initiatives.

Kuczynski knew the pardon would cost him members of his own party, further weakening his position in Congress and even prompting resignations from his Cabinet. But Popular Force also expelled Kenji Fujimori and his nine cohorts, reducing the opposition’s supermajority to 61 votes in the 130-seat chamber.

Claiming to put country over party, Kenji Fujimori has proclaimed his new bench will support Kuczynski’s government. It seems the president’s gamble paid off, but the new impeachment drive means he’s not out of the woods yet.

The two motions are being pushed by the divorced leftovers of what was the leftist Broad Front party in the 2016 elections. The 10-member faction led by Veronika Mendoza sat out the first vote, but her base which supported Kuczynski in the 2016 runoff to avoid a Keiko Fujimori presidency was enraged when he pardoned Alberto Fujimori. Hence the new drive to impeach.

At first glance an extra 10 votes would do the trick in forcing Kuczynski out. However, more than half of Peruvians approved of Fujimori’s release, not least of all the voting base of the 61 remaining Popular Force legislators. Not only was the pardon popular in Peru with 53% supporting, but for the first time Kenji Fujimori’s personal approval rating surpassed Keiko’s (38% to 30%). In fact, Kenji is Peru’s most popular politician right now.

Will Popular Force really vote to impeach Kuczynski after he pardoned their spiritual leader? Kenji may peel away more Popular Force legislators. He’ll have the help of Kuczynski’s party. The first shots have already been fired in driving a wedge in what remains of Popular Force.

“I don’t think Popular Force is going to get dragged into this new attempt,” housing minister and Peruvians for Change spokesman Carlos Bruce told El Comercio. “I don’t think they’ll simply fall in line or jump on command for these groups on the left.”

And therein lies the rub. For this new impeachment to work, the right-wing populists must ally with the firebrand leftists, the latter of whom are wholly motivated by the pardon of the former’s raison d’etre. At the same time, the right-wing populists’ claim to fame was the pardoned ex-president’s neoliberal economic reforms and the defeat of Marxist rebels, Shining Path. You couldn’t find stranger bedfellows.

If this weren’t enough fun, there is a comedy-of-errors element in the inept leftists who could not keep a 20-member coalition together. The divisions between Mendoza and Broad Front leader Marco Arana culminated in Mendoza walking away from what she saw as a marginalized figure to ally with more dignified leaders like Gregorio Santos.

Will the 20 leftist agree on one impeachment petition? Will Kenji Fujimori steal more Popular Force votes, or will Keiko hold it together? Let’s watch. It’s better than Game of Thrones.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Peru Reports.