How wide and what sort of front?

11 September 2016

With its second national congress planned for later this month, new internal tensions threaten to sink the left-wing Frente Amplio (FA). These follow the announcement by the leadership of Tierra y Libertad (TyL) last week, withdrawing support for three of its delegates on the FA: Pedro Francke, Marisa Glave and Irma Pflucker. All three played an important role in the successful electoral campaign in which Verónika Mendoza managed to clinch the left’s best result in 30 years.

Mendoza’s success was partly the result of contingent factors (such as the withdrawal of César Acuña and Julio Guzmán from the race), but her achievement was widely seen as stemming from her ability to project a new, more youthful, more participative and less dogmatic image for the left in Peru. With 20 seats, FA is the second largest block in Congress after Fuerza Popular (FP).

However, Mendoza’s success masked tensions within FA, particularly among its more prominent leaders. These first arose in the primaries for the presidential candidacy when Mendoza beat Marco Arana, the leader of TyL. As the campaign progressed, Mendoza emerged as the more obvious leadership figure. However, Arana has not lost hope of wresting back leadership.

The result of the elections, however, deprived Mendoza of the seat in Congress for Cuzco she had won in the 2011 elections as a candidate for Humala’s Nationalist Party (PNP). Marco Arana, the leader of TyL, by contrast, narrowly won a seat in Congress representing Cajamarca. One of the issues dividing the left is how broad the FA should be. The broader the alliance, the more unwieldy it becomes politically and the more difficult it is for its present leaders to maintain primacy. But also the broader the alliance, the more viable it becomes electorally.

This highlights differences over participation: while Arana has sought to restrict control to militants, Mendoza has looked to widen the net to include sympathisers and independent activists. This debate underscores differences over how the upcoming Congress should be organised. Who should have the right to voz y voto?

Tensions within the FA bloc in Congress also increased because of the prominent position adopted by Glave, despite the fact that Arana is the official spokesman (vocero), and the fact that all FA members of Congress are expected to give 10% of their parliamentary salary to help fund Mendoza to increase the FA’s remit.

Of course, the FA is not the only grouping to experience post-electoral stress disorder. Divisions have emerged within the FP, APRA and even PPK (the latter involving those who refused to abide the party whip and vote for Walter Gutiérrez as the new Defensor del Pueblo). It remains to be seen whether the FA Congress, if it happens (with or without Arana), manages to reduce frictions or to augment them, or whether some new sort of Frente will finally emerge.

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