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PERU: The Party System from 1963 to 2000, By Christina Orsini*

The Peruvian political system experienced drastic changes between 1963 and 2000. During this period two new constitutions were written, three military coup d'etats interrupted civilian constitutional government and numerous political parties formed.

At the start of 1963, Peru's government was under the control of a military junta regime, which had formed in 1962. This regime was the result of a dispute, between the army and the government, over the validity of the 1962 election results. Haya de la Torre, the leader of the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA), received the largest number of votes for the presidency. However, the National Election Board announced that since Torre did not reach the one-third minimum required plurality congress would have to determine who won. Before this could happen, the army demanded an annulment of the election because of alleged widespread electoral irregularities that favored the APRA (Keesings, 1962: 18906A). When the government choose to uphold the results, despite the army's demands, the military staged a coup d'etat, established a military junta regime and suspended the constitution. A civilian constitutional government was not restored until new elections were held in 1963 where Belaunde of the Popular Action Party (AP) was elected.

Politics in Peru remained relatively stable after the 1963 election, even though the AP controlled the executive branch and its main opposition party, the APRA, dominated the legislative branch. This stability remained until October 6, 1968 when President Belaunde and his government were overthrown by a coup d'etat carried out in Lima by the military. A statement made by the armed forces on the day of the coup announced that the "moral decomposition" (Keesings, 1968: 23101) of the government was the reason for the takeover. This military regime survived for twelve years. During that time no executive or legislative elections were held. It was not until 1978 that any move was made to return to a civilian constitutional government. At that point, a constitutional assembly was formed to write a new constitution. The constitution drafted by the assembly, which included a bicameral legislature and only allowed the president to serve one consecutive term, was ratified in 1979. In 1980 Peru held its first general elections since 1963. Fernando Belaunde Terry of the AP was returned to the presidency, his party also won control of the legislature.

Only a little over ten years later Peru again experienced major changes in its political system. In 1992, President Fujimore, who had been elected in 1990 on the Change90 ticket, dissolved both the legislative and judicial branches and suspended the 1979 constitution in a military-backed self-coup. Fujimore staged this coup because he was tired of "legislative and judicial hindrances of free-market reforms" (Internet). The public largely supported this action as they were frustrated with how inefficient and corrupt politicians had become. Immediately after dissolving the government, Fujimore established a unicameral legislative body, known as the Democratic Constituent Congress, and called for a new constitution to be written. In 1993 a new constitution, which officially changed Peru's legislature from a bicameral to a unicameral system and allowed the president to serve consecutive terms, was ratified.

Peru's government has hardly changed since 1993, it is still operating under the same constitution and Fujimore remains president, now serving his third consecutive term. The legislature has been under the control of the same party since 1992. Change90 won command of the Democratic Constituent Congress in both the 1992 and 1995 elections. In 2000 it remained the dominant party when it again won as part of the coalition Peru2000. While there have been few changes in Peru's political system since 1993 it is still uncertain how stable Peru's current government is. It is clear from their history that drastic change may occur at any moment.

Continuity and Change since 1963

Peru's highly volatile political system has resulted in an equally volatile party system. Since 1963 over 20 new parties have formed, most of which began when Peru's government was going through a period of great change. The majority of these new parties never gained significant strength in the legislature. Some of them terminated only a few years after forming because of this lack of success, but the majority of these parties continue to struggle on despite that fact. Change90 is the only new party that has attained a great deal of success. It has had control of the presidency since 1990 and the legislature since 1992. As for the five original parties examined in this study only two remain, APRA and AP.

Original Parties from 1950-62, still continuing to 2000

373 Popular Revolutionary Alliance. A left wing party organized in 1924 by Haya de la Torre, the APRA is one of the longest surviving parties in Peru. The party was banned from 1931-1945 and 1948-1956, but displayed considerable strength as soon as the ban was lifted. It was one of the leading parties in congress up through the 1990 elections. The APRA choose not to participate in the 1992 elections. When it returned to the political scene in 1995 it had lost a great deal of support. It did not receive more than ten percent of the vote in either the 1995 or 2000 elections.

374 Popular Action Party. A center-right party founded in 1956 by Fernando Belaunde, the AP's popularity has oscillated greatly over the years. Before the 1968 coup the AP had very little support in the legislature, although it did have control of the presidency from 1963 to 1968. Their strength was renewed when they won control of both the congress and presidency in the 1980 elections. This popularity, though, was short lived as they only received six percent of the vote in the 1985 legislative elections. The AP was once again the leading party in 1990 when they joined the Democratic Front coalition. However, the AP has not won more than three percent of the vote in any election since that time.

New parties forming after 1962 and continuing to 2000

377 Popular Christian Party. The PPC began as a splinter party of the Christian Democratic Party in 1966. In their early years they had little success, so in 1985 the PPC created the Democratic Convergence coalition with the Movement of Hayistas Bases. When this did not improve their electoral results the party joined the Democratic Front. The PPC experienced its greatest success as part of this coalition, winning 35 percent of the vote in the 1990 election. After the Democratic Front dissolved at the end of 1990, though, the PPC never won more than ten percent of the vote again.

378 Possible Peru. Founded in 1995, Possible Peru obtained the second highest amount of votes in the 2000 legislative election.

379 Moralizing Independent Front. Created in 1990, the FIM has never had control of more than ten percent of the seats in the legislature. Despite this fact it remains an active member of the political scene.

3710 We Are Peru. Formed in 1997, the 2000 election was the first election We Are Peru participated in. They only won seven percent of the seats in the legislature in that election.

3711 National Solidarity Party. Started in 1999, the National Solidarity party receivedlittle support in the 2000 election.

3712 Let's Make Progress. Founded in 1999, Let's Make Progress won only 3 percent of the vote in the 2000 legislative elections.

3713 Union for Peru. Established in 1994, the UPP did moderately well in its first legislative election in 1995, but because of declining support it did not do as well in the 2000 elections.

3714 Agrarian People's Front. FREPAP has had minimal electoral success since it was formed in 1989, nonetheless it remains an active participant in Peruvian politics.

3715 Change90. Change90 has been one of the leading parties in Peru since it was first formed in 1990. The party was created to elect Alberto Fujimore senator. Unexpectedly, he won the presidency by a landslide. Two years later, in the 1992 elections, Change90 obtained control of the legislature and has maintained control since then. In 2000 the party joined the coalition Peru2000.

3716CODE. 1985 was the first national election that the CODE participated in. Although it did not receive much support in that election, or any election thereafter, the party apparently still continues.

3717 Renovation. Instituted in 1993, the Renovation party has never obtained more than eight percent of the seats in the Peruvian legislature.

3718 Civic National Movement. OBRAS secured two percent of the popular vote in 1995, but did not win any seats in the 2000 elections.

3719 Independent Agrarian Movement. The Independent Agrarian Movement attained only one percent of the seats in the legislature in both the 1992 and 1995 legislative elections. Despite this weak popular support the party continues.

3720 National Left. After winning one percent of the popular vote in the 1980 legislative elections, the National Left never received representation in the Chamber of Deputies again. No information exists on the present status of this party.

3721 Union of the Revolutionary Left. A coalition of left wing parties founded in 1979, the UNIR has played a minor role in Peruvian elections since it was founded. In 1981 it tried to improve its position by joining the United Left.

3722 Revolutionary Workers Party. Little information is available on the Revolutionary Workers party whose only electoral success was winning four percent of the popular vote in the 1980 legislative election.

3723 National Front of Workers and Peasants. A left wing party founded in 1968, FRENATRACA has never played more than a minor role in Peruvian politics and elections.

3724 Popular Front of Workers, Peasants and Students. There is a dispute over when the FOCEP formed, some claim that it was created in 1963, others say it was not founded until as late as 1977. Either way, the FOCEP has been a weak party since it was established. In 1981 it joined the United Left to try and improve its position and has remained a member of that coalition to this day.

3725 Democratic Movement of the Left. A little-known party, the Democratic Movement of the Left won five percent of the seats in the legislature in the 1992 election, but has not attained any seats since then.

3726 Solidarity and Democracy. Since its formation the SODE has worked with many other parties, including the FREDEMO and the CCD, but has never had much success on its own.

3727Popular Democratic Unit. Practically no data exists on the Popular Democratic Unit, which after attaining two percent of the seats in the 1980 legislative elections never won another seat again.

3729 Movimiento Regionalista Loreto. This small party has had a virtually insignificant impact on Peruvian politics, as it only attained one percent of the popular vote in the 1990 legislative elections and has not earned representation in the Peruvian Congress since that time.

3730 Frente Tacneñista. After winning only one percent of the popular vote in the 1990 legislative elections and no support in any of the following elections, this party plays only a minor role in Peruvian politics.

3798 United Left. The IU was established by a coalition of five parties in 1981 as an attempt to unite all Peruvian leftist organizations. Like many of the other parties that formed in the 1980s, the IU never had much success in Peruvian politics or elections, but continued anyway.

3799 Peru2000. Peru2000 is a coalition founded by Change90, We are Neighbors, the New Majority and the National Independent Peru 2000 Front. It received the highest amount of votes in the 2000 legislative election.

Original Parties lasting after 1962 but terminating before 2000

371 National Union Party. The UNO was formed in 1950 with the name Restoring Party by General Manuel A. Odria. It had moderate popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, but never had enough strength to win control of the Chamber of Deputies. In the 1978 elections the UNO elected only 2 members to the 100 member Constituent Assembly. None of its candidates were elected in the 1980 general election. For that reason, it voluntarily terminated after 1980.

372 Christian Democratic Party. The PDC, formed in 1956 by Hector Cornejo Chavez, has always been relatively weak. Between 1956 and 1966 it never won more than ten percent of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies. In 1966 the party split when the most conservative wing left to form the PPC. By the 1978 elections, the party's popularity had declined so much that it only elected 2 members to the Constituent Assembly. The PDC has not won representation in congress since 1966. Although this party has not officially dissolved, because it has not sponsored a candidate in over ten years we consider it to be terminated.

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 two percent of the seats. In 1980, after the MDP was unable to elect a single member to the congress, their executive committee declared the party officially dissolved.

New parties forming after 1962 but terminating before 2000

3725 Socialist Left. The IS formed in 1989 but never gained any really support so voluntarily terminated in 1990.

3797 Democratic Front. The FREDEMO was created in 1988 as a coalition between the AP, the PPC and the Freedom Movement. Its main goal was to oppose President Alan Garcia Perez's attempt to nationalize the banks and insurance companies. While it had great success in the legislative elections, its presidential candidate was defeated by Alberto Fujimore in the 1990 elections. The FREDEMO dissolved in 1990.


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*Participant in Northwestern University's Summer Camp on Party Research, June-August, 2000