“We are going to have to disappear the PRI from the political map of Mexico.” The president of Morena, Mario Delgado, said it after the ruling party swept the elections in June last year in the eight states where the tricolor formation still governed, in many cases historical bastions where the PRI had held power for decades. . One year later, Delgado’s prophecy about the swallowing up of the party that came to govern the country for more than 70 years is getting closer to being fulfilled.
This Sunday Mexico returns to the polls in six states and the planned script follows the same course. Morena’s new victory in four of the territories, including Hidalgo and Oaxaca, two of the traditional fiefdoms that still remain for the PRI, is taken for granted in all the polls. And in the other two states in contention, Aguascalientes and Durango, the opposition candidates appear with slight advantages. That will be the battle that tests the resistance of the opposition’s joint strategy against Morena’s steamroller, which already dominates 17 of the 32 states. With an increasingly weakened PRI, its alliance with the PAN and the PRD also risks its future, the possibility of presenting itself as some kind of alternative to the 2024 presidential elections.
The overwhelming victory of Morena in the 2018 presidential elections precipitated the unusual pact, known as Va por México, between the two great antagonists of Mexican politics. The growth of both parties last year in parliament, which caused the loss of Morena’s absolute majority, gave the alliance a breath of fresh air. Despite the fact that the results by State were not at all encouraging. Since its foundation, Va Por México has not yet won any governorship. In the two territories where the PAN won last year, Querétaro and Chihuahua, it did so by presenting itself separately from the PRI and the PRD. “The PAN must be worried,” explains Martha Singer, professor of Political Science at UNAM. “But historically it has been shown that alone you can’t either. When Vicente Fox became president in 2000, he sought the support of many center and leftist forces to get the PRI out of the States”, adds the academic.
That first PAN government since the democratic opening only succeeded in fact in conquering nine governorships, and precisely the extensive territorial power that the PRI still retained was the lifeline that he grabbed to return to the presidency 12 years later. But the historic Mexican party does not even have that wild card left. It only retains four States and the forecast is that it will lose two this Sunday. After the six-year term of Enrique Peña Nieto, surrounded by corruption scandals, the crisis of the PRI is getting deeper and deeper. This same week, the leaking of some recordings where its president, Alejandro Moreno, is heard negotiating alleged fraud and acts of corruption further aggravated things.
The audios have been released by Layda Sansores, the Morenoite governor of Campeche, the state where Moreno was president, and the PRI president has responded to the controversy by accusing the ruling party of orchestrating a campaign to break up the opposition coalition. The open war between both formations has intensified in recent months. But the danger for the PRI of ending up devoured by López Obrador’s party has been a constant since its founding less than a decade ago. The president’s agenda—economic nationalism, subsidies, market regulation, and hegemonic aspiration—has been interpreted as a kind of reformulation of the old PRI. Beyond the electoral transfer, the ideological overlap has also had as a consequence the growing flight of PRI cadres towards Morena.
The best place to mediate the size of the wound of the PRI and the coalition will be Durango, the state where the contest is anticipated to be the closest. Va por México’s candidate is Esteban Villegas, a PRI member who leads the polls by the least. A victory in Durango would give the alliance a breather and strengthen the PRI’s position going forward. For the UNAM political scientist, Khemvirg Puente, Villegas’s strength in any case does not lie so much in the brand of the tricolor party as in “its closeness to local leadership, which is very volatile and has been changing sides in recent years.”
The academic Martha Singer does consider, however, that the candidacy of the alliance in Durango is an example of the particular electoral drag that the PRI still maintains. “Despite everything, it still retains a strong capacity for mobilization based on very old corporate and peasant ties. In addition to maintaining an important local presence in town halls and municipalities”. Those would be the incentives of the PAN to continue in the coalition with the PRI. In addition to the fact that in the two states where each party has decided to go on its own, Oaxaca and Tamaulipas, a resounding victory for Morena is expected. The future viability of the coalition, experts agree, will have its litmus test next year in the elections to the State of Mexico, the largest granary of votes in the entire country and the PRI’s still impregnable castle.
Given the opposition’s doubts, however, Morena arrives with the machinery well oiled for Sunday’s elections willing to continue expanding its territorial power. The referendum to revoke his mandate, held just two months, served to tighten the ranks of his most loyal electorate and keep several of his leaders in tension, already immersed in the prelude to the presidential race in two years. In addition, the selection of his candidates for these elections followed the pattern of fishing in the turbulent PRI river. Specifically, the applicants from Hidalgo, Durango and Tamaulipas are very recent signings of Morenismo with a long history in the ranks of the PRI.
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