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The BBC's Jim Fish
"An intelligence scandal and an outraged people"
 real 56k

Sunday, 17 September, 2000, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Shock election call in Peru
Anti-Fujimori protesters take to the streets to celebrate
Anti-Fujimori protesters take to the streets to celebrate
Embattled Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has called surprise new elections and has indicated that he plans to step down, saying he will not seek re-election.

Mr Fujimori, who has been in power since 1990, was elected to a third term in May amid widespread allegations of fraud.

His decision to call elections as soon as possible comes shortly after the release of a videotape which allegedly shows his security chief Vladimiro Montesinos trying to bribe a member of the opposition.

A series of opposition defections since May have restored the president's majority in congress.

In a televised address Mr Fujimori also decided to "deactivate" the intelligence service.

Alberto Fujimori
President Fujimori said he would not stand again
Former presidential candidate Alejandro Toledo called for a transitional government to be formed immediately, and for the opposition to rally around a single candidate. He says he plans to run for president again.

Mr Toledo pulled out of the May presidential runoff after alleging that Mr Fujimori planned to rig the results.

Correspondents say the announcement has stunned the country, prompting spontaneous scenes of celebration.

People poured onto the streets shouting freedom and calling the decision a great victory for democracy.

Our correspondent Claire Marshall said the mood in the capital, Lima, was one of jubilation, with hundreds of people emptying out from bars and cafes to carry banners, beat drums and wave flags.

The streets of Lima filled with jubilant opposition supporters
Marching down the street, people shouted out "we are free now", and passing cars, taxis and buses honked their horns in unison.

Leading a crowd of about 200 down one of Lima's main streets, Cezar Ramiro, from one of the main pro-democracy movements, said: "We are very happy because we have been asking him to go since April, and now he's gone".

Another opposition supporter, Mani Dammat, said that the president's surprise announcement was finally the end of a 10-year-long fight for liberty.

Opposition demands for new elections have increased since the scandal about the video broke.

Luis Alberto Kouri
Not me: Kouri denies that he took a bribe
Mr Montesinos, long considered the power behind the government, was seen apparently handing over $15,000 to Luis Alberto Kouri, who recently defected from the opposition to the governing party.

An Organisation of American States statement on Saturday said the accusations were "of the utmost seriousness and require rapid, radical action from the government".

The United States also expressed its concern, and there were demonstrations in the Peruvian capital, Lima, calling for Mr Montesinos' arrest.

The opposition saw the video as proof that Mr Fujimori used bribes to win opposition party defectors over to his side after the April elections, which left his party with fewer than half the seats in Congress.

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See also:

07 Apr 00 | Americas
Fujimori's controversial career
17 Sep 00 | Americas
OAS demands action on Peru scandal
15 Sep 00 | Media reports
Cash, lies and videotape shock Peru
29 Jul 00 | Americas
Peru's bubbling unrest
21 Jul 00 | Americas
Neighbours snub Fujimori
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