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Crisis-hit Peru seeks third president in a week to exit 'nightmare'

LIMA, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Peru awoke on Monday morning still searching for a new head of state after lawmakers failed overnight to name what would be the third president in a week.

Interim leader Manuel Merino resigned on Sunday, after the ouster last week of his predecessor, centrist Martin Vizcarra, had sparked off protests and dragged the country into a constitutional crisis.

Congress is now seeking a replacement to helm the country towards elections for April next year. Lawmakers failed in a midnight vote to select the only name then put forward, Rocío Silva-Santisteban, a leftist human rights defender.

The country’s fragmented and unpopular legislature will vote again on Monday at 2 pm (1900 GMT) when another name will be on the list: lawmaker Francisco Sagasti, a 76-year-old industrial engineer and former World Bank official.

The political upheaval adds to the uncertainty facing Peru, the world’s no. 2 copper producer, already hard hit by COVID-19 and heading for its worst economic contraction in a century.

Vizcarra was impeached and removed from office by Congress last week over allegations of corruption, which he denies.

Merino, who as president of the Congress led the impeachment, succeeded Vizcarra. But he too resigned, after two people died in protests against his fledgling government and lawmakers threatened to impeach him unless he stood down.

“There is a political immaturity from some and a lack of self-awareness from others in the face of what has happened in the country in the last week,” legislator Alberto de Belaunde, from the centrist Morado Party, told reporters.

His party is now nominating Sagasti to be Peru’s third president in a week.

“The main thing for Peru is to regain stability and for this nightmare to end,” de Belaunde added.

Amid the uncertainty, Peru’s markets and currency have come under pressure. Bonds rose, then fell early on Monday. (Reporting by Marco Aquino Editing by Adam Jourdan and Peter Graff)

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