Peru's Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has pulled off a surprise victory against the opposition's bid to oust him from power for his alleged involvement in Brazil's corruption scandal. The motion to impeach fell eight votes short.
Peruvian lawmakers rejected ousting President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in a vote late on Thursday, following more than 10 hours of debate.
Kuczynski made a forceful defense before the Peru's congress, ahead of the vote, urging lawmakers to defend the country's democracy from what he dubbed a hastily attempted "coup" staged by the right-wing opposition Popular Force party.
Read more: Odebrecht bribed across Latin America
"The demand for vacancy on grounds of permanent moral incapacity has not been approved," said the speaker of the opposition-dominated chamber, Luis Galarreta. The motion received 79 of the required 87 votes that would have approved impeachment, while 19 lawmakers voted against and 21 abstained.
Following the vote, a triumphant Kuczynski took to Twitter, proclaiming, "Peruvians. Tomorrow begins a new chapter in our history: reconciliation and reconstruction of our country. One single force, one single Peru."
The result came as a surprise to many observers, given that last week 93 lawmakers voted that the impeachment motion to be put to Congress.
Kuczynski's links to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht
Lawmakers from the Popular Force party had sought to remove the president from power on the ground that he was "morally unfit" for office.
An opposition-led investigation uncovered documents revealing that Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht had made some $780,000 (€658,000) in payments to Kuczynski's private consulting form just over a decade ago. Kuczynski was working as a government minister at the time but insists the payments were for legitimate consulting fees.
Odebrecht is currently at the center of one of continent's greatest ever corruption scandals, having paid out millions of dollars in bribes to win public contracts in Brazil and other Latin American countries.
Read more: Brazil's judiciary hunts corrupt politicians
In Peru, the firm has admitted paying out some $20 million in kickbacks to former President Alejandro Toledo, under whom Kuczynski served as economy minister between 2004 and 2005. Peru is seeking to extradite Toledo from the United States to face charges.
Another former Peruvian president, Ollanta Humala, is currently in prison on suspicion of having illegally received millions from Odebrecht in campaign funds.
In neighboring Ecuador, Vice President Jorge Glas was sentenced to six years in prison last week after being found guilty of receiving a total of $13.5 million in bribes from the Brazilian construction firm through an uncle.
dm/jil (AP, AFP)