Throughout most of Peru's modern political history, personalities and power politics have counted for more than party platforms. There are nevertheless several parties with origins at least as far back as the 1950s.
The American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana—APRA) was begun in 1924 by Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre as a movement of and for Latin American workers. The five planks in its original platform were opposition to "Yankee imperialism," internationalization of the Panama Canal, industrialization, land reform, and solidarity among the world's oppressed. Controlling most of unionized labor, APRA was anti-Communist and anti-imperialist. Outlawed in 1931 and again in 1948, APRA was legalized in 1956. APRA has been historically opposed to the military, and political conditions in Peru from the 1930s until the mid-1980s have been dominated by hostility between APRA and armed forces leaders. After the death of Haya de la Torre in 1979, APRA was weakened by internal dissension. By 1985, new leadership and the failure of the Belaúnde government allowed APRA its first experience in power. Yet, the economic crisis experienced during the Alán García government severely hurt the party. Lack of leadership within APRA also hindered that party electorally. After Fujimori's demise, APRA reemerged as a strong and unified party. In the 2001 presidential and parliamentary elections, APRA obtained 20% of the vote (26 seats in the 120-member Chamber), consolidating its position as the second-largest and the most disciplined party in Peru.
The Popular Action Party (Partido de Acción Popular, or AP) was founded in 1956. Originally a reform party, it competed with APRA for the support of those favoring change in Peru. After an impressive campaign in 1956, the AP won the presidency in 1963, thanks to the military's hatred of APRA. In the 1980 presidential election, Belaúnde received 45.4% of the votes cast, compared with 27.4% for APRA candidate Armando Villanueva del Campo. After Belaúnde's tenure, AP has lost electoral appeal. In the most recent election, AP only obtained 4% of the vote and three seats in the Chamber.
After the dissolution of Congress by the 1968 military coup, political parties continued to exist, although they were denied any role in government until the late 1970s. Ideologically, the military rulers between 1968 and 1980 reflected both strong socialist and nationalist principles.
The left has undergone a number of changes, partly as a result of military intervention, and most recently has been undermined by the activities of leftist guerrillas. The Peruvian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Peruano) was formed in 1929. Outlawed in 1948, it changed its name to the Revolutionary Labor Party (Partido Obrero Revolucionario—POR), which split in the 1980s into a number of small factions. The United Left (Izquierda Unida—IU), formed to support the candidacy of Alfonso Barrantes Lingán, took 21.3% of the 1985 ballot. Barrantes was mayor of Lima until APRA unseated him in 1986, whereupon Barrantes resigned as IU president and the coalition dissolved.
The largest active guerrilla party is Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), a Maoist group founded in 1964. Its founder, Abimaél Guzmán, a former college professor, was captured by the government and is still imprisoned. Sendero's strength is concentrated around Ayacucho, in the sierra southeast of Lima. Its program includes not only attacks on bridges, power lines, and urban centers but also attempts to organize highland peasants. Sendero collects tribute from peasants in exchange for protection and encourages peasants not to sell their food crops to the cities.
A smaller group, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru—MRTA), merged with the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) to form a group that has been increasingly active. The MRTA-MIR is more urban-oriented and follows a more orthodox Marxist line than the eccentric Sendero.
President Alberto Fujimori came to office in 1990 as an independent, calling his party Change 90-New Majority. In the 1995 elections, Fujimori was reelected in a landslide victory and his party took 67 of the 120 congressional seats, giving it a clear majority (the next-highest number of seats, 17, went to the Union for Peru party, led by former UN secretary general Javier Perez de Cuellar who came in second in the presidential election). Fujimori's popularity declined during his term because of his oppressive political tactics, and although he was reelected on 9 April 2000, the results of the election were challenged as fraudulent. Amid international pressure and domestic discontent, Fujimori was forced to resign and fled to his parent's native Japan. He has not returned to Peru, where he faces several charges for corruption and human rights violations.
Current president Alejandro Toledo also formed his own party before the 2001 election. Peru Posible is a personalist party formed in 2001 around the then-popular figure of Toledo. With 26.3% of the vote, it captured 45 seats in the Assembly. But Peru Posible has shown little party discipline and it is unlikely that the party will survive beyond Toledo's own political career.