Regional and Municipal Elections Independents Prevail

Update 118. 30 November 2006

The results from the November 19 regional and municipal elections provided further evidence, if this were needed, of the poor standing of Peru's national political parties.

APRA, the party of President Alan García, lost control of a large number of the regional presidencies it had won in the previous elections in 2002. It now controls only three regions: La Libertad, Piura and the provinces of Lima. It did even worse in the elections for provincial mayors. It even lost control of the city council in Trujillo, the party's spiritual base.

Unidad Nacional (UN) won only in Metropolitan Lima, a personal victory for the incumbent mayor, Luis Castañeda Lossio whose previous successful term has won him enormous support. But Castañeda is really an independent, and the parties that support UN - principally the Partido Popular Cristiano (PPC) - had to acknowledge that they had made gains on Castañeda's coat-tails. UN won in many of the sprawling pueblos jovenes of Lima where few people support the PPC. In many parts of Peru outside Lima, UN failed to put up candidates; and where it did they won a tiny share of the vote.

Acción Popular shows few signs of life after the untimely death of its leader, former president Valentín Paniagua. The only part of the country where it has any real backing at all is in the selva. Like APRA, AP is one of Peru's historic parties. It was founded in the 1950s by (twice) former president Fernando Belaunde.

The left. The parties that once made up the United Left are also now conspicuous by their absence in regional as well as national politics. The only party to make a good showing was Patria Roja whose allies now control three regions: Pasco, Puno and Huánuco.

Ollanta Humala's Partido Nacional Peruano failed conspicuously to capitalise on its national electoral victory in April. His erstwhile allies in the Union por el Perú (UPP), however, won the presidency of one region (Cuzco).

Others included the remnants of Alejandro Toledo's Peru Posible, which, having been humiliated in the national elections in May, was dealt a further drubbing. They also included the fujimorista Alianza por el Futuro which attracted some support in areas like Ayacucho and Apurímac but hardly constitutes a national party.

Independents prevail

The victors of the November 19 elections were, overwhelmingly, local figures running on local tickets for local sounding parties. Of 195 provinces, local groupings prevailed in 112, whilst APRA won only 16 and the PNP ten. Voters appear not only disenchanted with national political parties, but keen to support a strictly regional agenda.

Some political observers see in this further evidence of a reaction against the hyper-centralisation of the Fujimori years and the drive from below toward further decentralisation. It certainly seems to underscore the deep level of frustration felt throughout the country towards traditional political elites.

In the build-up to the regional elections, Alan García promised to accelerate the programme of decentralisation, initiated by his first government in the late 1980s. However, haemorrhaging support for APRA will make it much more difficult for García to offer far-reaching decentralisation without simply further empowering those who will use the resources to oppose the central government on a range of issues. However, he can perhaps take comfort from the fact that there are otherwise few bonds that unite this opposition. Even so, the election results will further complicate problems of governance in Peru. 

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