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Peru's new president to replace PM in bid for consensus: sources

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s incoming president Martin Vizcarra will replace the country’s prime minister in a bid to form a consensus government with input from a broad representation of political groups and institutions, two sources close to Vizcarra told Reuters.

Peru's Prime Minister Mercedes Araoz attends a news conference in Lima, Peru, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

Prime Minister Mercedes Araoz will remain in her other position as vice president, the two sources and a third source close to Araoz said on Thursday. Araoz had previously vowed to resign the vice presidency out of loyalty to outgoing president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski if Congress forced him from office.

Vizcarra and Araoz did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Kuczynski tendered his resignation to Congress on Wednesday as an eleventh-hour vote-buying scandal destroyed his chances of surviving an impeachment vote and prompted a criminal probe. He denies any wrongdoing.

The move rallied markets, amid hopes that it would end months of political uncertainty in the top metals exporter.

But Kuczynski’s bitter battle with the opposition has fractured political parties, eroded trust in elected officials and sparked calls for new elections.

Vizcarra, first in line to replace Kuczynski as the country’s first vice president, will be sworn in on Friday.

In a bid to restore credibility in institutions while averting a fresh crisis, Vizcarra will ask different political and civil society groups to weigh in on important decisions, starting with a new Cabinet, the sources close to him said.

The sources close to Vizcarra said it was not clear if he would keep any ministers in the current Cabinet beyond a transitional period to ensure the government runs smoothly.

But they said Vizcarra definitely plans to replace Araoz, who has faced harsh criticism from lawmakers on the right and left as she has fought to help Kuczynski survive.

Having her remain outside the Cabinet, as one of Peru’s two vice presidents, would give Vizcarra and Peru more stability, the three sources said.

The source close to Araoz said she had decided to remain as vice president because Kuczynski was departing voluntarily, not through a vote she would have considered a legislative coup.

Vizcarra and Araoz were elected together with Kuczynski in 2016, when they narrowly beat the presidential ticket of rightwing candidate Keiko Fujimori, the eldest daughter of former authoritarian president Alberto Fujimori.

Despite losing the presidency, Fujimori’s party won control of Congress and forced at least three ministers in Kuczynski’s government to resign.

Fujimori’s party has promised to allow Vizcarra to govern Peru in peace through the rest of Kuczynski’s scheduled term to 2021.

Vizcarra will arrive in Lima early on Friday from Canada, where he has doubled as Peru’s ambassador.

Reporting By Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien