Further rifts divide Peru's parties

16 July 2017

It was the week of splintering parties. Both APRA and the left saw rifts confirmed, rifts that had much more to do with personal struggles for power than any ideological differences. This follows, of course, the divisions within Fuerza Popular that we noted last week, again divisions caused by the struggle for political leadership between the Fujimori siblings.

The division within APRA took place within the context of its many-times delayed party congress, with Jorge del Castillo, Alan García’s former lawyer and lieutenant, decrying the victory of Elias Rodríguez in the election for party general secretary. Rodríguez, it seems, had García’s blessing from on high (or at least from Madrid). The winning slate also included Mauricio Mulder.

Del Castillo accused Rodríguez of buying the votes of delegates to the conference, inferring that he had used money gleaned from the drug trafficking mafia in order to do so.

The election that finally took place further reveals the weakness of what is Peru’s most durable political party. Established in 1924 by Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre, the party has played a central role in Peruvian politics for more than 90 years. But it has seen its strength as a party wither as it has become increasingly a party controlled by one man: García. The congress, many of the party faithful hoped, would help revive the party and make it a more attractive force, particularly to a new generation of electors increasingly sceptical about parties in general.

The congress, it seems, has done nothing to improve its longer-term viability, with García continuing to orchestrate party matters from afar, alienating important figures like Del Castillo who has long sought to rise to the top job the party has to offer and with it the chance of being its candidate in 2021. Within its much-diminished ranks in Congress, the daggers are now drawn between those representing the ‘party of fraternity’.

The situation within the left-wing Frente Amplio is not entirely dissimilar. Last week saw the final rift between those who support Veronika Mendoza’s Nuevo Perú faction and those surrounding the Tierra y Libertad leader, Marco Arana. The rivalry between the two leaders goes back to the internal elections for the candidacy in the 2016 elections in which Mendoza prevailed over Arana.

But Mendoza’s candidacy turned out to be a boon for Arana who won a seat in Congress (presidential candidates cannot run for Congress) and became the official spokesman of the 20-strong Frente Amplio bloc in Congress. Arana also has the advantage of Tierra y Libertad enjoying political registration with the electoral authorities. Mendoza has been struggling to collect the large number of signatures to register Nuevo Perú in its own right.

It is unclear what the ideological divisions between the two consist of, but it is very clear that the two vied for leadership of the left. They also vied for control of the cash on offer from the electoral authorities to those parties which secured sufficient seats in last year’s elections. State funding of political parties can have the effect of dividing parties as much as strengthening them.

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