Path: ICPP > ICPP 1980 > List of Countries --> Peru
Kenneth Janda
Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey
New York: The Free Press, 1980: pp. 544-545
PERU: The Party System in 1950-1956 and 1957-1962
(Text as published in 1980 citation above)

Since the 1930s, Peruvian politics has featured a tension between the military and the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA) a radical movement founded in Mexico in 1924 and manifested in Peru as the Partido Aprista Peruano (PAP). APRA or PAP--the terms are interchangeable--was banned in 1931 after being denied a likely presidential victory through alleged fraud but continued as an underground organization. Barred from the 1936 elections, APRA was legalized just before the 1945 elections in time to help José Bustamente y Rivero win the presidency as the candidate of the APRA dominated National Democratic Front (FDN). Outlawed again by Bustamente following a 1948 revolt, APRA continued as an illegal party following Bustamente's ouster by a military coup three weeks later.

General Manuel Odría led a military government until 1950, when he stood for the presidency and won an election in which no opposition candidate was qualified. No "Odriista" party was formally created, but Odría's supporters won 146 of the 156 seats in the lower chamber. Elections and open party activity were virtually nonexistent during the period of Odría's rule, which extended until the elections of June 1956.

There were three candidates for the presidency in 1956: Hernando de Lavalle, who had been chosen by Odría as his successor on the National Union ticket; Fernando Balaunde Terry (Action Popular); and Manuel Prado, who had been president from 1939 to 1945 and formed his own Peruvian Democratic Movement (MDP) to support his candidacy. APRA, still illegal, endorsed the victorious Prado, and his MDP also won a plurality of the seats in congress. Immediately thereafter, APRA and other opposition groups were again legalized, and a number of independents in congress declared their affiliation with APRA. In presidential elections scheduled for 1962, APRA allied with MDP in the Alianza Democratica participated openly by backing its leader, Victor Raúl Haya de la Torre, against Belaúnde and Odría. Although Haya de la Torre)t slight plurality, no candidate obtained the required third of the vote for direct election of the president the election was thrown into the newly elected congress. Haya de la Torre and Odría then announced them likely coalition to ensure the election of Odría as president, Manuel Seoane (APRA) as vice president, and a majority of the cabinet positions to be named APRA. The military, which backed Belaúnde, then annulled the 1962 elections and imposed a junta government that promised new elections in June 1963. The elections were held and contested again by Belaúnde, Haya, and Odría as the main candidates. This time Belaúnde was backed by a coalition involving his own Acción Popular and the Democracia Cristiana, which combined to elect him with more than one-third of the votes.

Continuity and Change since 1962

As shown clearly in the accompanying graph, Peru has experienced substantial discontinuities in its party system. The period of multiparty politics from the late 1950s and into the mid-1960s was ended by a military coup, the dissolution of congress, and military government in 1968 under General Juan Velasco Alvardo. Valasco was himself ousted in 1975 by General Francisco Morales Bermudez, under whose administration elections were held in June 1978 for a constituent assembly to frame a new constitution. Reports of party activity in that election indicate that all five of our original parties still existed and that one new party qualified for study.

Original Parties, Continuing

371 National Union Party. UNO, the party of Peru's military ruler in the early 1950s, was still around, but its influence had waned to only 2 percent of the seats 1978.

372 Christian Democratic Party. The Christian Democrats also slipped badly from their earlier position, but in this case the cause was mainly a split of ore conservative elements from the party in 1967 to form the rival Popular Christian Party. Like UNO, the Christian Democrats won only 2 percent of the seats in 978.

373 Popular Revolutionary Alliance. APRA was not only still around, it was clearly the big winner in 1978, taking 37 percent of the seats and having its aging leader, Haya de la Torre (83), elected as president of the constituent assembly.

374 Popular Action Party. The second largest party in the congress before the 1968 coup, AP withdrew from the 1978 elections because "the Government had not fully guaranteed the sovereignty of the Constituent Assembly" (Keesing's Contemporary Archives, September 15, 1978, p. 29202). While we do not know the AP's current strength, we presume that the party still exists.

375 Democratic Movement. The governing party until 1962 under Manuel Prado, the MDP lost sharply in the 1963 elections and did no better in 1978, when the party took only 2 percent of the seats.

New Parties, Continuing

377 Popular Christian Party. The PPC was formed in 1967 by conservative elements who split from the Christian Democratic Party and thus contributed to its electoral slide. The PPC won a surprising 24 percent of the seats in the 1978 elections and emerged as the second largest party in the constituent assembly.


It is too early to pronounce that Peru is entering a new phase of civilian government and competitive party politics, but the signs seem favorable in early 1979. Even in the absence of AP participation in the 1978 election, however, ten party groupings were represented in the assembly, and one of these was FOCEP, itself an amalgamation of numerous left-wing parties and groups. But APRA, the PPC, and FOCEP together held 71 percent of the seats, so fragmentation was not extreme.

[For party politics in Peru since 1962, go to the essay by Christina Orsini]

1. Our study of party politics in Peru is based on a file of 972 pages from 75 documents, 5 of which are in Spanish, the rest English (see Table 1.3). The bibliographic search and indexing of material for the file was done by Jean Jacobsohn. Paul J. Rossa coded all five parties following Kevin Dawson's start on coding the variables in the first cluster. Our consultant was Edward Epstein.