Path: ICPP > ICPP 1980 > List of Countries --> Paraguay
Kenneth Janda
Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey
New York: The Free Press, 1980: pp. 528-529
PARAGUAY: The Party System in 1950-1956 and 1957-1962
(Text as published in 1980 citation above)

Since the close of the nineteenth century, party politics in Paraguay has been characterized by a struggle for dominance between the two traditional political parties: the Liberals and the Colorados (Republican National Association). This struggle for dominance overflows mere electoral competition for winning offices; it includes physical conflict and results in government discrimination by the victor against the loser. Thus the periods of political dominance tend to be long and alternation in power marked by civil strife.

Colorado rule began in 1887 and lasted until a revolt in 1904 transferred control to the Liberals. The Liberal Party continued in power until February 1936, when a coup by left-wing dissidents known as the Febreristas introduced an unusual third force into Paraguayan politics leading a radical regime that lasted just more than a year. The Liberals wrested the government back from the Febreristas and continued their rule, which was finally ended in 1940 by a combined effort of the military, Colorados, and Febreristas. The leader of this revolt, General Higinio Morinigo, shunted both parties in the background and led what was essentially a military government until 1946, when he restored some political freedoms and invited Colorados and Febreristas into a coalition cabinet. But he could not control the political forces he had unleashed, and a civil war broke out in 1947. It ended the same year with Morinigo and the Colorados, now drawn closer together, victorious over the Liberals and Febreristas, now both outlawed. Rival factions among the Colorados entered a period of intraparty struggle that resulted in rapid turnover of presidents. Morinigo resigned in 1948 and was followed out of office by four others until Dr. Federico Cháves, leader of the Democratic faction of the Colorado Party, became leader in 1949.

At the beginning of our period Cháves consolidated his power within the Colorado Party by suppressing opposition factions and positioning himself as the uncontested candidate for the presidency in the 1950 elections. Cháves was reelected in 1953, but he was ousted in 1954 by General Alfredo Stroessner, who in turn positioned himself as the uncontested candidate for the presidency in the 1954 elections. Stroessner was reelected same manner in 1958 and closed out our time period in control of the army, his party, and therefore his. country. His rule, however, was not without opposition. Both the Liberals and Febreristas, who were alternately repressed and tolerated, stirred up criticism against the regime. Factions within the army and the Colorados added to the unrest. Beset by challenges to his government, Stroessner skillfully maintained himself in office frustrating coups and suppressing plots against him.

Continuity and Change since 1962

The plot of party representation over time in Paraguay's Chamber of Deputies suggests that the party system changed fundamentally after 1962, but Paraguay has only shifted from a one-party state to a hegemonic state. All three of our original parties continued through 1968, and one new party was formed.

Original Parties, Continuing

361 National Republican Association. Commonly the Colorado Party, this is the party of General to Stroessner, reelected president of Paraguay in 1963, 1968, 1973 and 1978. It holds hegemony ether parties, which participate within limits act by Stroessner. The party is aided in its domination of politics by the constitutional provision that gives the majority party two-thirds of the legislative seats. Other parties must divide what is left.

362 Febrerista Revolutionary Party. A left-of-center party, the Febreristas had been repressed during the 1950s but have been legalized in recent years. The party protested the 1973 and 1978 elections.

363 Liberal Party. This is the original Liberal Party, now known as the Radical Liberal party, which has been the traditional rival of the Colorado Party. Allowed to participate in the 1967 election, the Radical Liberals were awarded 27 percent of the seats, which stood as its allotment after subsequent elections as well.

New Parties, Continuing

364 Renovation Liberal Party. This "new" Liberal Party was formed in 1961, splitting from the traditional Liberal Party to accept Stroessner's offer of one-third of the seats in congress to act as a loyal opposition. When the traditional Liberals (who changed to the Radical Liberals to accentuate the distinction) were enticed into contesting elections, the new Liberals lost strength.


Over the years, Stroessner has permitted increasing amounts of competition from other parties, but it is still heavily controlled. Although he took power in 1954, Stroessner in 1979 is only 66, and the imposed stability of Paraguay's party system may last for many more years.

1. Our study of party politics in Paraguay consists of 771 pages from 51 documents, 9 of which are in Spanish, the rest in English (see Table 1.3). The bibliographic search and indexing of material for the file was done by Judith Newsome Gillespie, with the assistance of Jean Jacobsohn and Marcelino Miyares. Doreen Kostel Ellis used the file to code the Paraguayan parties on the variables in the ICPP conceptual framework. Byron Nichols was our outside consultant.