Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 December 2021
Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (National Unit of Hope, UNE) has been Guatemala’s most successful electoral vehicle in the democratic period. The UNE’s architects aimed to construct a programmatic and institutionalized political party. However, it is a formation that has much more in common with the modal Guatemalan electoral vehicle. An empirical evaluation of the UNE’s horizontal coordination and vertical aggregation capabilities reveals that, as an organization, it fails along both dimensions. Central-to-local party coordination, campaign strategy harmonization, and party loyalty in the legislature are limited. Pervasive factionalism within the UNE, weak mechanisms of harmonization, as well as the autonomy of local and regional caudillos, restrict possibilities for horizontal coordination. The UNE did construct an intertemporally loyal clientele of voters via a politicized cash-transfer program. But its ability to represent and develop organic linkages with society were limited by the stranglehold of party financiers, the absence of encompassing societal mobilizing structures, the abysmal disparity in relational power between the private sector and social sectors, and other factors.