Peru’s Jan. 26 special election was exceptional.
Not only did voters elected 130 new legislators, replacing their entire Congress; they also brought into the fold a messianic religious group called the Israelites of the New Universal Pact.
After 40 years of failing to qualify for a national election, the political party of the Israelites – called the Agricultural People’s Front of Peru, or Frepap – won 15 congressional seats. In a fragmented Congress with nine parties, that makes the Israelites the third-largest legislative bloc.
The line between religion and politics has long been blurry in Peru. Both its mainstream parties – Acción Popular, the first-place vote-winners; and Alianza para el Progreso, with the second-most seats– have historical ties to Christian Democracy, a Catholic movement that gained popularity in 1950s Latin America with its centrist approach to economic development and conservative social values at a time of divisive Cold War rhetoric.
Frepap’s sudden popularity is likely a response to a challenging political moment.