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Cablegate: The State of Political Parties in Peru

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C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 000097

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/28
TAGS: PGOV PREL PE
SUBJECT: THE STATE OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN PERU

REF: 09 LIMA 1561; 09 LIMA 1053; 09 LIMA 899

DERIVED FROM: DSCG 05-1 B, D

1. (C) Summary. ...
id: 246088
date: 1/28/2010 20:49
refid: 10LIMA97
origin: Embassy Lima
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 09LIMA1053|09LIMA1561|09LIMA899
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C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 000097

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/28
TAGS: PGOV PREL PE
SUBJECT: THE STATE OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN PERU

REF: 09 LIMA 1561; 09 LIMA 1053; 09 LIMA 899

DERIVED FROM: DSCG 05-1 B, D

1. (C) Summary. In Peru's consolidating democracy, established
political parties will participate in the 2010 regional elections
and 2011 national elections as weak, largely personality-based
organizations that represent narrow constituencies. The ruling
APRA party is the most fully structured, with a solid 20% base of
support mostly concentrated along the coast, but its approach to
2011 is ambiguous given that President Garcia cannot run. Lourdes
Flores' PPC is heavily Lima-centric, while the Nationalist Party
(PNP) has expanding regional structures but remains the electoral
vehicle of Ollanta Humala. Other smaller parties are either eroded
or only partially developed political structures built around
personalities such as former President Fujimori. The weakness of
political parties means that regional movements, outsider
candidates and potential anti-system elements remain well-placed to
fill the vacuum and could surge as genuine electoral alternatives.
End Summary.


Weak Parties Lack National Presence


2. (C) As Peru's still-consolidating democracy gears up for
another electoral season (local and regional elections are
scheduled for October of this year, national elections for April of
2011), general institutional fragility and ineffectiveness are
acutely reflected in the country's established political parties.
Weak and often personality-based, parties represent narrow
constituencies, mostly in urban areas, rather than broad
cross-sections of society. Because parties have been unable to
articulate a national vision, there are virtually no broad-based
political movements or coalitions with extensive popular support
nation-wide. In addition, parties are often reluctant to open
themselves up to outside participation and renovate their
leadership with new blood; as a result, they have among the lowest
levels of citizen confidence among all democratic institutions.
According to the 2008 Americas Barometer poll, only 20% of
Peruvians identified with a party - down from 30% in 2006. This
means that 80% of electorate is up for grabs in the next election,
without an identified mechanism to channel their interests,
proposals, or complaints to the government. It also leaves the
great majority of voters potentially open to the appeal of the
"outsider" candidate - a fresh face unconnected to any established
party who articulates frustration with the current political system
and its ineffective or corrupt institutions.


3. (C) Part of the disenchantment with parties stems from a larger
frustration with successive governments perceived as unable or
unwilling to resolve Peru's persistent structural problems, such as
inequality, poverty and unemployment, in an (as yet) politically
decisive way. In this sense, because parties form governments and
legislatures, they have limited credibility as actors capable of
addressing the population's needs. Paradoxically, despite
declining popular support, the number of parties in Peru is
increasing: 26 parties are currently registered in this country of
28 million, with more on the path to registration. This
bewildering array of options makes it even more difficult for the
average citizen to distinguish among parties and what they offer.
As one local analyst put it, parties in Peru display symptoms of
autism: they repeat the same messages over and over, are incapable
of recognizing the valid participation of others, and are largely
focused on internal concerns.


4. (C) Outside Lima and other major population centers, national
parties that link together Peru's diverse regions are essentially
absent, making it difficult to develop consensus and compromise on
national policies and legislation. While national party figures
travel to the regions to build party structures and identify
candidates for local office, they are usually unfamiliar with the
key local issues and unable to judge and select appropriate leaders
with potential national projection. As a result, in 2006, regional
movements representing often narrow local platforms and visions
captured 21 of 25 regional presidencies. While these regional
movements vary in effectiveness and popular support, they have no
single political vision or program binding them to one another or
to a national political vision, which has generated a highly
fragmented and fractured political environment at the national
level. Several regional leaders, such as Mayor of Trujillo Cesar
Acuna and President of San Martin Cesar Villanueva, are trying to
project a national vision from a regional base in the run-up to the
upcoming elections.


Structured Parties Few


5. (C) The ruling APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance)
party is the most fully structured in the country, with a solid 20%
of core supporters among the electorate largely concentrated in the
coastal areas. Many observers describe the APRA as the only true
political party in Peru, alone in having a serious party machinery
capable of mobilizing its mass membership during electoral and
non-electoral periods, and known for the strict discipline of its
members of Congress and rank and file - once a decision at the top
level has been made. The APRA's approach to upcoming elections
remains ill-defined, however, largely because President Alan Garcia
is constitutionally barred from running in 2011 and widely reported
to be contemplating a third run in 2016. To many observers, this
calculation means that Garcia seeks to maintain control of the
party in the interim and could choose to do so by throwing his
support to a non-APRA party presidential candidate in 2011.
Nevertheless, APRA stalwarts, including former PM Jorge Del
Castillo, have publicly stated their interest in becoming the
party's candidate for 2011.


6. (C) The Partido Popular Cristiano (PPC), arguably Peru's second
most structured party, has little presence outside Lima. Many
observers believe this - and its image as mostly representing
Peru's upper classes - explains why PPC president and past
presidential candidate, Lourdes Flores, has fallen short in several
successive national elections. According to media and insider
reports, Flores is currently contemplating running for Mayor of
Lima and relinquishing her national political aspirations - for
now. By contrast, the PNP is the only national party with a
significant network in Peru's impoverished rural communities (with
the possible exception of the fujimoristas), and many analysts say
that its quiet work in strengthening and expanding existing
structures has continued over the past three years. That said, the
PNP is also seen as the personal electoral vehicle of former
presidential candidate Ollanta Humala, it is reportedly tightly
controlled by Humala's wife and advisor Nadine Herrera, and it has
sought to tighten links with radical groups (
ref A), which has
caused serious internal tensions and a number of defections in past
months.


High Profile Leaders Lack Solid Party Structures


7. (C) Other smaller parties are either eroded or not
fully-developed political structures built around personalities.
The current polling leaders generally fall under this category:


-- Likely candidate Luis CastaC1eda has a high approval rating and
tops most recent polling thanks to his performance as mayor of
Lima, but his party, National Solidarity (Solidaridad Nacional),
has little national reach. He has sought to overcome this with
targeted social works - such as building "Solidarity Hospitals" -
in poor areas throughout the country
-- Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, who often places second in the
polls behind CastaC1eda, derives her popularity almost exclusively
from her father, former President Alberto Fujimori (currently
imprisoned on human rights, corruption and other charges.) Keiko's
nascent political movement, Force 2011 (Fuerza 2011), is made up of
a succession of fujimorista "parties" with little internal
structure or organization but a solid base of support in middle and
lower class areas that formed the backbone of former President
Fujimori's political strength.


-- Former President and possible 2011 candidate Alejandro Toledo's
party, Peru Possible (Peru Posible) holds a smattering of elected
offices outside Lima but revolves mostly around Toledo's (long
distance, for now) leadership. Popular Action (AcciC3n Popular), a
traditional party that had the presidency twice in modern Peruvian
history, has faded in recent years and lacks a presidential
candidate with broad name recognition.


-- Other possible contenders - including Cajamarca environmental
activist and former priest Marco Arana, retired Commander of the
Army General Edwin Donayre, former PM and President of Lambayeque
region Yehude Simon and former PM and Finance Minister Pedro Pablo
Kuczynski - have some degree of name recognition but little party
structure to speak of. The quintessence of the party-less
presidential aspirant, at this juncture, may be polemic author/talk
show host Jaime Bayly, whose rumored candidacy has fueled much
media commentary in recent days, some of it serious.


Comment: With Weak Parties, Outsiders Fill the Gap


8. (C) With Peru poised to enter another electoral cycle in
2010-2011, the weakened state of political parties means that
regional movements, outsider candidates and potential anti-system
elements remain well-placed to fill the vacuum and surge as genuine
electoral alternatives. While the absence of established national
parties with nationwide constituencies need not lead inexorably to
the selection of an "outsider" or anti-system candidate, it would
seem to make such a choice more likely. A politician keenly
attuned to the spirit of the times, even President Garcia recently
stated that the next APRA candidate would be an "outsider."
McKinley

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