The Governmental System of Peru

By Graham H. Stuart; Carnegie Institution of Washington | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII. PARTIES AND ELECTIONS.

Peru at the present time presents the curious picture of a South American republic without political parties. The Peruvians them­ selves concede that such a situation is abnormal, but no one seems much worried about it. Two reasons are given for this state of affairs, depending upon the attitude which the person questioned holds towards the government. If he favors it he declares that all the old parties have become bankrupt, so that President Leguía found it necessary to build from the foundation up, and the result has been the formation of the democratic reform party. Those opposed to the government claim that President Leguía has deliberately wrecked the real parties of the nation by sending their leaders into exile and muzzling the press, and that the democratic reform party is not a party at all, but merely a mushroom growth whose life is dependent entirely upon President Leguía's control of the executive power. Whatever be the reason, the national elections of 1924, which returned Augusto Leguía as president with 287,969 votes to his opponents 155, certainly indicates that either he was the unanimous choice of the nation or that political opposition was stifled. A single day spent in any of the cities in the south of Peru would dispose of any notion that the choice was unanimous.

The criticism that the democratic reform party is merely another name for the Leguía party is hardly a valid criticism in Peru, where practically every party which has existed, excepting perhaps the civil party, has been identified with some prominent politician. The democratic party was practically the creation of Nicolás de Piérola, the constitutional party was identified with General Cáceres, the civic union party with Valcárcel, and the national union party with Gonzáles Prada. The liberal party is associated with the name of Augusto Durand and the national democratic party with that of José de la Riva Agüero. Even the civil party, the oldest and perhaps the most permanent of the political parties of Peru, was the party of Manuel Pardo. As a Peruvian writer states it:

There is absolutism in the presidential government which rules us and a lack of effectiveness in parliament because we lack real political parties. Those which are so called possess neither definite orientation, nor standards, nor discipline. They are mere groupings about a leader whose sole watchword is to get into power.1

Francisco García Calderón, in his brilliantly written book on Peru, thus describes political parties in his native country:

____________________
1
P. Davalos y Lissón, La Primera Centura ( Lima, 1919), vol I, p. 88.

-112-

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