Mexico’s former ruling party is facing its most important election in history, in Sunday’s governorship election in the State of Mexico, the largest of Mexico’s 32 states and the last large one governed by the old Institutional Revolutionary Party, the PRI.
The race could also mark a high point for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s Morena party, which has imitated — and largely replaced — the old PRI across the rest of Mexico. Nearly five years into his single six-year term, López Obrador remains highly popular.
Polls suggest Morena could win by a wide margin in the State of Mexico, a contest seen by many as a preview of next year’s presidential elections, in which the party is also seen as the favorite.
While the PRI might still hold on to the sparsely populated northern state of Coahuila, which is also electing a new governor Sunday, the loss of Mexico State — a mix of suburbs, slums, and agricultural communities that surrounds Mexico City on three sides — would probably spell the end of the PRI as a major player.
For a party that held the presidency without interruption from 1929 to 2000 — and has governed the State of Mexico for 94 years — it would be a humiliating end.
“After June 4 if the PRI loses, you can assert with clarity that it no longer has a future, even though it might take a while to disappear. It might hold on at a regional or local level, but not on a national level. It is coming to its end,” said political analyst Benedicto Ruiz Vargas.
Ruiz Vargas has seen in his home state of Baja California what happens when the PRI goes into a death spiral; many of its members either retire or seek to join Morena. “The old guard that has always been there is governing within a new party. It is the PRI mutating into Morena,” he said.
That would suit López Obrador just fine. Many of the top positions in his government are occupied by former PRI members, like himself.
Sociologist Bernardo Barranco says López Obrador is a bit of a throwback to the charismatic PRI presidents of the 1960s and 70s, who gave out government-built apartments and government-run grocery stores. Unfortunately, they were also corrupt and ran the economy into the ground.
López Obrador “has a style like the PRI had in the 1960s,” Barranco said, adding “There is a nostalgia for that protective state that looked out for people’s incomes.”
In Mexico State, where the current, patrician Gov. Alfredo del Mazo is a third-generation PRI politician and governor, López Obrador’s party is running Delfina Gómez, a not very charismatic former schoolteacher whose demeanor very much comes from the classroom.
PRI is running Alejandra del Moral, a former mayor with a long list of university degrees.
But the deciding factors for voters in the State of Mexico are much earthier and have to do with survival.
When work is scarce, refrigeration technician Juan Ayala runs a small stand selling sunglasses, hats, and toys on the sidewalk of the huge municipality of Ecatepec.
He is sure Morena candidate Delfina Gómez will win because he — like many others in the rough Mexico City suburb — is tired of the corruption that has lasted almost a century.
As a reporter speaks with him, a burly young man from a shadowy “autonomous social organization” — that’s what it says on his jacket — passes through and silently demands 50 pesos in payment from every vendor on the sidewalk, and takes a photo of each one after they pay. The vendors say it happens every week, and those who don’t pay are banned from selling.
“It’s wrong because they get rich off it. They’ve been doing it for 50 years,” Ayala said.
Leonardo Gonzalez, 61, who works as part of a cleaning crew, says she hopes the PRI will win if only to return to a past time when crime wasn’t so bad in the State of Mexico. Crime is so common here that when young men carrying pistols climb aboard commuter vans here, they simply announce robberies with the phrase “You know the routine people, wallets, and cell phones.”
Gonzalez herself had her wallet and cellphone stolen at gunpoint recently as she exited a subway station at night after a long day’s work.
Source: El Financiero