Political power in Guatemala has been largely a matter of personal, rather than party, influence. Although parties have generally developed along conservative or liberal lines, political periods are commonly identified with the names of important leaders.
Under President Carlos Castillo Armas (1954–57), the Guatemalan Communist Party and other leftist parties were dissolved, and all other parties were temporarily suspended. To prevent further party proliferation, the membership necessary for party certification was raised from 10,000 to 50,000 in 1963. Only three parties were able to meet this requirement in time for the March 1966 elections: the Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario—PR), a center-left party, the conservative Institutional Democracy Party (Partido Institucional Democrático—PID), formed in 1965, and the militantly anticommunist National Liberation Movement (Movimiento de Liberación Nacional—MLN).
During the 1970s, these parties remained dominant. The MLN won the presidency in 1970, and an MLD-PID coalition took the 1974 election (which was ultimately decided in Congress), defeating Gen. José Efraín Ríos Montt, representing the leftist National Opposition Front, a coalition of the several parties, including the Christian Democrats (Partido de Democracía Cristiana Guatemalteca—DCG). In 1978, the PR and PID formed a center-right coalition. In the congressional voting, the MLN won 20 seats, the PID 17, the PR 14, the DCG 7, and other parties 3. In the presidential elections of March 1982, a coalition of the PR, PID, and the National Unity Front (Frente de Unidad Nacional—FUN), an extreme right-wing party formed in 1977, won a plurality of 38.9% of the vote. Congress endorsed the PRPID-FUN candidate, Gen. Ángel Aníbal Guevara, as president, but he was deposed in a coup later in March. All parties were suspended by the new ruler, Gen. Ríos, but political activity resumed in March 1983. In the 1980s, the Christian Democrats grew significantly, winning the 1985 presidential and congressional elections. In addition, a host of new parties entered the political arena. Many had hopeful names suggesting national reconciliation, moderation, and solutions to Guatemala's problems. Among these were the National Union of the Center (Unión del Centro Nacional—UCN), the Democratic Party for National Cooperation (Partido Democrático de Cooperación Nacional—PDCN), the Solidarity Action Movement (Movimiento para Acción y Solidaridad—MAS), the National Advancement Plan (Plan por el Adelantamiento Nacional) and the National Authentic Center (Centro Auténtico Nacional).
The left-wing guerrilla movement is represented by the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca—URNG). Founded in 1982, these groups consist of the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (Ejército Guerrillero de los Pobres—EGP), the Guatemalan Workers' (Communist) Party (Partido Guatemalteco del Trabajo—PGT), the Rebel Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes—FAR), and the Organization of the People in Arms (Organización del Pueblo en Armas—ORPA). During the 1999 elections, the leftists won nine seats in Congress. The main political parties in 1999 were the conservative Frente Republicano Guatemalteco and Partido de Avanzada Nacional; Frente had 63 seats in Congress and PAN had 37 seats.