Humberto Lay, one of presidential candidate Cesar Acuña’s running mates, has withdrawn from the Alliance for Progress ticket.
The socially conservative, 77-year-old congressman cited “personal reasons” for his resignation from 2016 elections. But observers believe the evangelical Christian leader is distancing himself from Acuña due to an unending series of ethical scandals and even crimes involving the former La Libertad governor including plagiarism, piracy, campaign finance violations, vote buying and domestic violence.
“The alliance remains strong,” Acuña told reporters. “I am not going to quit. This is like a soccer game which has already begun. The final whistle will be April 10.”
Lay was the second vice president and the first congressional candidate listed on Acuña’s ticket. Anel Townsend, a two-term congresswoman and former Cabinet minister under Alejandro Toledo, remains as Acuña’s first vice presidential candidate.
Acuña’s attempt to downplay Lay’s withdrawal was complicated by the fact that Charles Zapata, the secretary general of Lay’s National Restoration party, also resigned. The two leaders’ departure has fueled speculation of an exodus of National Restoration’s evangelical Christians which make up a key part of Acuña’s coalition.
In addition to Townsend, Acuña’s coalition still counts respected politicians in congressional president Luis Iberico as well as Cesar Villanueva and Marisol Espinoza, who each served as President Ollanta Humala’s Cabinet chief and vice president respectively.
Lay’s resignation comes two days after Peru’s electoral board launched an investigation into vote buying which could disqualify Acuña’s candidacy. The elections authority opened a separate investigation today into Acuña’s stating a false address in Lima’s impoverished district of San Juan de Lurigancho on his official inscription.
The piracy scandal, in which Acuña published a University of Lima professor’s book under his own name, continues to make headlines. Just one day after the dean of Cesar Vallejo University, which Acuña founded, denied signing a university resolution recognizing Acuña as a coauthor, another university official whose signature appears on the document denied signing it.
Former Trujillo mayor and La Libertad governor Cesar Acuña rose as high as second place in opinion polls last December. He has since lost over half of his support and fallen to fourth place, just one percentage point above former President Alan Garcia.