Election year tends to be an interesting time for Puerto Rico, especially as new third parties join the race to challenge the two strongest parties that have held office for decades.
The Island’s voting culture has historically been one that prioritizes political family legacy over candidate merits. However, with younger generations becoming more conscious of old patterns holding back the Island’s progress and older generations becoming disillusioned with traditional political models, many are feeling empowered to make a change through their vote.
Here’s a look at the parties that are in the running for the gubernatorial race this year.
Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP) or The New Progressive Party
Founded in 1967, The New Progressive Party has advocated for Puerto Rico’s statehood for 53 years. With its iconic blue and white palm tree as its party flag, this is one of the two major parties on the Island with significant political strength across generations. Currently, the party holds both the seat of the governor and the resident commissioner.
As a traditionally conservative right-wing party, it’s remained a popular ideological stance among older supporters and voters (colloquially called “penepés” for its acronym in Spanish). For this reason, they’ve dominated the political sphere in Puerto Rico. As someone who has been involved in Puerto Rico’s politics for many years, many view the possibility of electing current candidate Pedro Pierluisi as an effective way for the Island to finally prosper socioeconomically and reap the full benefits of being an American citizen.
Partido Popular Democrático (PPD) or Popular Democratic Party
The Popular Democratic Party has been one of the longest-standing parties on the Island. The current nominee for governor this election season is Charlie Delgado Altieri. Positioned as a centrist party on the political spectrum, the party has long advocated continuing the Island’s status as a self-governing Commonwealth of the United States. Although many are wary of the limiting aspects of this kind of situation, the party played a significant role in shaping Puerto Rico’s political history and overall perspective. Its earlier constituents were the ones to draft the Constitution of Puerto Rico, including the first elected governor Luis Muñoz Marín.
Alongside the PNP, the Popular Democratic Party is a prevailing party with a lot of political strength. Although PNP holds most legislative and judicial seats, PPD has more than half of the mayors’ seats on the Island. Because of its complicated and diverse nature, its supporters are fragmented between those that lean more towards Democratic Party’s views, those that align more conservatively to the views of the founding members, and those that advocate for sovereign free association with the United States rather than an unincorporated territory as it currently exists.
Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño (PIP) or The Puerto Rican Independence Party
This party has been around since 1946, advocating for Puerto Rico’s independence from the United States. However, movements for Puerto Rico’s independence have existed long before it’s competing parties. The movement hasn’t been very popular among voters, only accounting for a fraction of the total votes during elections. However, with its center-leftist stance, members and supporters of the party have faced public, governmental, and federal scrutiny since its origins.
From persecutions to targeted attacks to surveillance, pro-independence activists have a vast history of political oppression in Puerto Rico. One of the most noteworthy cases was the Cerro Maravilla murders on July 25, 1978, where two young activists were massacred in a police ambush, and local government officials proved to help cover up the incident. An earlier version of violence against the movement on behalf of federal governments was the Ponce massacre in 1937. Even a law made it a crime to speak or write of independence from 1948 to 1957.
In recent years, though, the party has steadily gained more traction amongst younger voters. With these generations seeing Puerto Rico’s independence as a viable solution to the current socio-economic crisis on the Island, support for the current candidate for governor, Juan Dalmau, has increased throughout the election cycle.
Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana (MVC) or Citizen’s Victory Movement
One of the newest parties to compete for governance is Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana, founded in 2019. Similar to The Puerto Rican Independence Party, MVC has gained popularity among younger voters thanks to the only woman nominee in the lineup, Alexandra Lúgaro. Placing themselves as an inclusive party, they pride themselves in celebrating diversity, even within the conversation of Puerto Rico’s territorial status. In an attempt to disrupt traditional partisan politics, its nominees have emphasized their intent to be representatives and officials chosen because of their merits rather than party associations.
In 2016, the gubernatorial election had a historic drop in voter turnout. However, as a third-party candidate, Alexandra Lúgaro ran independently during the 2016 election cycle and gained an unprecedented 11.13% of the total votes, signaling a shift in mindset among voters. This has allowed for Citizen’s Victory Movement to rise as one of the most prominent third parties to date.
Proyecto Dignidad or Project Dignity
As a reformist conservative party born during this election season, Project Dignity has made its mark as a movement that prioritizes traditional family values. With messaging reminiscent of Republican slogans, the campaign aims to make Puerto Rico a land of hope. The current nominee, Dr. César Vázquez Muñíz, is a cardiologist and pastor.
Like MVC’s positionality on partisan politics, its platform emphasizes wanting a more prosperous future for Puerto Ricans, with a stronger emphasis on family, spirituality, and socioeconomic developments that allow the restoration of dignity, vision, and directions.
This year’s nominee running independently is Eliezer Molina, an agriculturist and economist with a coffee plantation called “Hacienda Libertad.” In 2019, he deposed before the United Nations Decolonization Committee to denounce the effects of the colonial status on Puerto Rico and carried this stance into his current campaign. With a focus on turning the local consumer economy into one of production, his platform aims to fight corruption, social inequities, and political mediocracy.