Peru's Congress was to convene Wednesday to designate an interim president, a day after sacking President Alberto Fujimori on grounds of "moral incapacity," making him forever ineligible to run again for public office.
The opposition-controlled Congress late Tuesday declared the presidential post vacant by a 62-9 vote, with nine abstentions. Lawmakers applauded and cheered the vote, capping a marathon, 12-hour session which had been expected to appoint an interim president.
That move is now expected Wednesday, after Congress reconvenes at 9:30 am (1430 GMT) and formally accepts the resignation of Second Vice President Ricardo Marquez.
Since First Vice President Francisco Tudela resigned in October, Congress president Valentin Paniagua is next in line to replace Fujimori in the executive office.
The interim president will serve until a new president takes office in July, following general elections on April 8.
Fujimori's dismissal definitively disqualifies him from running for Congress in those elections or for any other public office, analysts here said, suggesting that Congress' decision aimed to prevent him from making a comeback as a legislator.
Before he announced his resignation and his intention to stay in Japan, Fujimori on Friday had told AFP in Tokyo that he planned to return to Peru and that he was considering running for an assembly seat in April, in a bid to protect the progress he claims was made in Peru under his leadership.
Analysts believe opposition lawmakers feared Fujimori's political clout, since it is estimated he has the support of 30 to 40 percent of voters in the country, principally among the poor. That could have put him in command of a Congress deeply divided by personal rivalries.
Throughout the day Tuesday, lawmakers took to the floor accusing Fujimori of cowardice, disloyalty and holding secret bank accounts abroad. His letter of resignation, faxed from Tokyo late Sunday, was never put to a vote.
They argued for his dismissal on grounds of his unprecedented, long-distance resignation and his presumed complicity in helping his former intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, escape arrest.
Montesinos is wanted on charges of extortion, money laundering and drug trafficking after a decade as Fujimori's shadowy right-hand man.
The leak in late September of a video of Montesinos bribing an opposition legislator was the first in a series of events that pulled the rug out from under Fujimori's presidency just months after he had won a controversial third term in an uncontested runoff election.
Fujimori's resignation followed Paniagua's election Thursday as head of Congress -- the first time in 10 years that the legislature came under control of the opposition.
Ruling party lawmakers tried in vain to block the dismissal, saying Fujimori's presidency should not be judged on the sole fact of his resigning in absentia, and calling the "moral incapacity" charge an act of political revenge.
The Japanese government said Wednesday it would consider any request from Fujimori to stay for an extended period in Japan.
"I knew from press reports that (Fujimori) had stated his hope (to stay in Japan)," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a regular press conference.
"We do not know whether such a request has been made or not," he said. "If there is such a request, the government will consider it."
In Tokyo Tuesday, Fujimori -- the son of Japanese-born immigrants -- said he "wanted to regularize" his stay in Japan "without seeking political asylum," but added that he had not made a final decision on how long he would stay.
He was speaking at his first press conference since arriving in the Japanese capital on Friday, on what was originally supposed to be a stopover of a few hours between connecting flights, after he attended an APEC summit in Brunei.
"I am very sorry that this resignation has caused so much uncertainty, confusion and even outrage. I am all the more sorry for those who are my supporters," Fujimori said.
"I would have preferred to tender this resignation in Lima" but "there are reasons why I have done it here" Fujimori said mysteriously. "My reasons for stepping down are difficult to explain, but one day will be made public," he added.
The former president also denied that he had 18 million dollars stashed away in foreign bank accounts as alleged in Peru, or that he had anything to do with a multi-million dollar corruption scandal involving Montesinos -- LIMA (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)