No Clear Successor
But while Peruvians have been celebrating "the end of the dictatorship," the political class have been trying to figure out just who will replace the authoritarian president. New elections are scheduled for next April, but thereís no clear line of succession before then. The ruling party wants second vice president Ricardo Marquez to take the job, but the congressional opposition wants the speaker of the legislature, Valentin Paniagua, to take over. Opposition legislators have questioned the credentials of Marquez, a close ally of Fujimori, and his path to the presidency remains constitutionally murky. First in line would be the first vice president, Francisco Tudela, who resigned last month following Montesinosís return to Peru from a failed bid for asylum in Panama. But the legislature has not yet accepted Tudelaís resignation. Such discord among civilian politicians is just the sort of thing that gets the military a little edgy, and although its commanders released a statement at the weekend that they would support any constitutional change of power, there are a number of competing constitutional scenarios that remain to be decided.
Where Is Montesinos?
The wild card, as ever, is Montesinos. Nobody knows quite where the shadowy intelligence chief is since his ostensible return to Peru. Despite being on the run, Montesinos is believed to command significant loyalty in the military brass, having appointed many of its leading figures to their positions. That's if he's still alive opposition leader Alejandro Toledo, speaking in Spain at the weekend, speculated that the former intelligence chief, who's been implicated in political bribery and also in a gun-running scandal, may actually have been killed. But nobody's betting on that.
So with the president holed up abroad, his former political fixer on the lam, the civilian politicians unable to agree on a constitutional succession and masses of ordinary Peruvians on the street, the situation may be starting to look an awful lot like a power vacuum to Peru's generals.