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Wednesday, 22 November, 2000, 16:41 GMT
Fujimori successor chosen
Demonstrators
The decision should please opponents of Mr Fujimori
Peru's Congress has chosen its speaker Valentin Paniagua as interim president to replace Alberto Fujimori.

Mr Paniagua, a 64-year-old lawyer, is regarded as a moderate and a popular choice who will serve until a new elected president takes over next year.

Valentin Paniagua
Mr Paniagua is seen as a moderate with wide appeal
He is expected to be sworn in after a brief recess.

The chamber had earlier ruled Mr Fujimori "morally unfit" to govern following his resignation over the weekend.

The congress - now controlled by opponents of Mr Fujimori - approved the president's dismissal by 62 votes to nine, with nine abstentions.

Opposition lawmakers clapped and cheered and a Peruvian flag was waved from a public gallery as soon as the vote was over.

Uproar

They were incensed at the way Mr Fujimori resigned - from a hotel room in Tokyo. Mr Fujimori, who is of Japanese origin, ruled Peru for 10 years.

He says he has no immediate plans to return to Peru.

He had been under growing pressure to step down after his security chief Vladimiro Montesinos was caught up in a corruption scandal two months ago.

Alberto Fujimori
Mr Fujimori ruled Peru for 10 years
As a result, Mr Fujimori, who took office in 1990, said he would quit four years early, and called elections for next April.

The BBC correspondent in Lima, James Reynolds, says there is a mood of relief now after two months of political turmoil.

Many Peruvians had supported Mr Fujimori for ending hyperinflation and cracking down on guerrilla groups.

But he is suspected of involvement in the scandal surrounding Mr Montesinos, who allegedly acquired millions of dollars through money-laundering and other illegal activities.

Vladimiro Montesinos
Vladimiro Montesinos triggered Mr Fujimori's downfall with a bribery scandal

Both of Peru's vice-presidents - Francisco Tudela and Ricardo Marquez - have resigned.

Mr Paniagua is widely seen as a democrat skilled at building consensus.

Peru's political life is now expected to unfold as follows:

  • Early 2001 - candidates for April presidential election formally announce they are running
  • 8 April - presidential and congressional elections
  • 28 July - Peru's interim president hands over power to the newly-elected president for a five-year term

Asylum rumours

In the congress debate, Mr Fujimori's dwindling band of supporters were drowned out by opposition congressmen denouncing him with cries of "shame," "immorality" and "sin".

Mr Fujimori has been rumoured to be seeking political asylum since he left the country last week.

Fujimori's downfall
May 2000: Re-elected third term amid vote-rigging claims
14 Sept: Montesinos scandal breaks
16 Sept: Fujimori announces new elections
23 Oct: Montesinos returns from exile
16 Nov: Opposition takes control of Congress
17 Nov: Fujimori arrives in Japan
20 Nov: Fujimori resigns
But in his first public statement since arriving in Japan four days ago, he insisted on Tuesday he did not intend to stay there permanently.

"I am visiting [Japan] on a diplomatic passport, and now I am no longer a president but a common citizen. I have not decided yet how long I will stay in Japan," he told journalists at his hotel in Tokyo.

There has been speculation that Mr Fujimori might seek to stay in Japan as both his parents were born there, giving him the right to apply for residency.

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See also:

20 Nov 00 | Media reports
Peru press turns on Fujimori
18 Nov 00 | Americas
Montesinos accused of new crimes
14 Nov 00 | Americas
Pressure piled on Fujimori
20 Nov 00 | Americas
Fujimori: Decline and fall
22 Nov 00 | Americas
Q & A: What next for Peru?
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