Apristas reflect on party’s “worst electoral defeat”

As many look with uncertainty at the results of Peru’s presidential election on Sunday, President Alan García’s ruling Aprista party is also pondering its future after suffering one of its worst electoral defeats in its history.

In the presidential field, APRA – Peru’s only established political party, founded in 1930 as a workers party— failed to run a candidate in the April 10 election after Garcia’s former cabinet member, Mercedes Araoz, quit her bid for the presidency over a dispute with party secretary general Jorge del Castillo.

Araoz, an independent who served as Garcia’s Finance minister, had called for party members who are under investigation in corruption cases to refrain from seeking re-election. This included Del Castillo, who is being investigated for his alleged role in a 2008 scandal that led to his resignation as Prime Minister and a major shakeup of his Cabinet.

With no presidential candidate in the limelight and approval ratings for President Garcia hovering around 30%, APRA has managed to secure only four seats in the 120-member Congress this time, down from 36 in the 2006 election.

While journalist Augusto Alvarez wrote in daily La Republica that the results were APRA’s worst electoral defeat in its history, Congressman and party stalwart Mauricio Mulder said a change in leadership may be necessary.

“The answer is new leadership and that as main leaders of the party we step aside to look for people who haven’t held this responsibility,” said Mulder, who is one of the four Apristas re-elected to Congress.

Garcia’s former Interior minister, Mercedes Cabanillas, put the blame largely on Del Castillo and his handling of the dispute with Araoz. Cabanillas, who was minister during the deadly confrontation between police and indigenous protesters in 2009 on a remote highway in Bagua, also said that there were too many independents in Garcia’s cabinet.

Meanwhile, Garcia has minimized the results, saying that it is a “national tradition” for the electorate to punish the governing party.

“It is almost a national tradition that people not vote for the party that is leaving the administration,” he said. “Our people don’t like continuity.”

While it may take some time for APRA to regroup, the party has a history of recovering and should not be counted out, Alvarez reminded his readers.

“This is the worst electoral defeat in APRA’s history, but we shouldn’t forget, however, that ‘APRA never dies.’ It will find out how to get back up.”

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