Peru looked for a new head of state after lawmakers failed to name what would be the third president to lead the country in a week. Interim leader; Manuel Merino resigned on Sunday, after the outgoing of his predecessor, Martin Vizcarra, which resulted in chaos and threw the country into a constitutional crisis. The country is in the tight grab of one of the most lethal COVID-19 outbreaks, and political commentators say the constitutional crisis cast the country’s democracy at no point.

Martin Vizcarra was directed to step down from Congress’s office on Monday over allegations of corruption and abuse of power. The corruption case mostly circles around leaked WhatsApp messages. Vizcarra was impeached due to his closeness to construction companies that used illegal ways to win contracts in a region of southern Peru when he was the governor of that region. Vizcarra denied the claims and challenged his dismissal in the country’s Constitutional Court.

He was replaced on Tuesday by Manuel Merino, who was supposed to lead the country through to next April’s presidential elections. Merino was the president of the Congress who led the impeachment, succeeded Vizcarra. But Merino went packing as well, after clashes between protesters and the government, resulting in two citizens’ death. Merino resigned after sitting on the throne only for five days.

Congress went looking for a replacement to march the country towards elections for April 2021. Lawmakers failed in a midnight vote to select the only name then put forward, Rocio Silva-Santisteban, a leftist human rights defender. The country’s vulnerable and unpopular legislature voted again on Monday for the vacant presidential throne where another name was on the table: Francisco Sagas, mid-seventies industrial engineer and former World Bank official.

Centrist lawmaker Francisco Sagasti was selected by Peru’s Congress as the country’s newest interim president on Monday, after a week of political instability and displacement of balance that saw the resignation of two presidents. He will take the country to the April 2021 elections till an elected government to be installed. Centrist Sagasti won 85% votes in Congress to prove victorious over his leftist rival, Rocio Silva Santisteban.

People gathered outside the gates of Congress as Francisco Sagasti was selected as the legislature’s new president. The centralist member of the Morado party has not yet been sworn into office, but as head of Congress becomes the nation’s chief of state by default. Right now, Peru has no president or vice president, making Sagasti next in line to lead the country.

Many in the Latin American nation are hopeful that Sagasti’s appointment will mark the end of a disturbing week in which protestors came to the streets after the Congress decided to make popular ex-President Martín Vizcarra go packing.

Peru spent more than a day with no designated head of state. Sagasti could put the country back on rail toward stability because he is in a more stable position than his predecessor to win the Congress and protestors’ support potentially. He and his party were among just 19/130 lawmakers to vote against Vizcarra’s removal. That will earn him credibility among protesters who condemned the ouster as a power grab. Sagasti inherits a broken economy, hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Peru also has the world’s highest per capita death rate from the COVID-19.

There is a political immaturity from some and a lack of self-awareness from others in the face of what has happened in the country. The important thing for Peru is to regain political stability. Amid the uncertainty, Peru’s economy has come under pressure. Bonds rose and then fell early on Monday. The pressure has been exerted from all over the world to curb the situation. A country cannot afford to change its president three times in a week. Will the citizens of Peru be able to absorb Sagasti as their new interim president, or will we see another candidate lining to sit on the throne? Time will tell.


Ali Asad has completed his masters in Political Studies from the University of the Punjab. His main area of interest is in capacity building, governance, education, human development, socio-political and socio-economic state of affairs in South East Asian region; focusing Pakistan. He is pursuing M Phil in Public Policy.

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