In the midst of tough negotiations, Mario Delgado played the big card. "We're going to have to wipe the PRI off the map." It was November 2021, shortly after snatching 8 states from the historic Mexican party in one fell swoop and with two other electoral appointments ahead with the last four PRI states at stake. The president of Morena was counting on, or at least boasting, to continue razing and completely engulfing the PRI, an increasingly real ghost as the elections progressed. Two years after that order, the prophecy has still not been fully fulfilled. With a thousand wounds, cornered and weakened as never before, the PRI is still standing, but it prolongs an agony more and more to the limit.
Results of the elections State of Mexico and Coahuila, live
This Sunday he lost his most important trench, the State of Mexico, although he has retained Coahuila and carom last year he also managed to take Durango. His improbable pact with the PAN, another sign of the desperate times he is going through, has served to add votes for his most solvent local leaders and tie up a handful of seats in Congress. A life cushion that is allowing him to sell his support dearly to both the opposition and the Government, thus becoming a valuable piece for both sides. An example was that negotiation two years ago, when Delgado launched the threat and that, by the way, ended up running aground. With next year's presidential election on the horizon, the party's challenge will be to maintain that precarious balance.
"The announced death of the PRI seems not going to be so hasty. By this time, Morena expected its state governments to disappear and its militants, and even affiliates, to complete the transfer to Morena as the hegemonic party to which they have been accustomed for so long. But this moribund party still has the strength to fight, especially because of the capacity of its local leaders, as the case of Coahuila shows," says Khemvirg Puente, coordinator of the Center for Political Studies of the UNAM.
Supporters of Alejandra del Moral at a rally in Nopaltepec (State of Mexico) on May 30, 2023.ALFREDO ESTRELLA (AFP)
Despite the accumulation of defeats, the threat of Morena in its own political space, the corruption scandals – from the Odebrecht case to the investigation opened against former President Peña Nieto – or the war within the party, the PRI refuses to die because it maintains its last indefatigable reserve, its hardest vote. It is another of its paradoxes: the PRI brand is the one that generates the most rejection among voters. But it is also, after López Obrador's party, the one that retains a more solid fixed vote: around 12%, according to the average of analysts.
For Rogelio Hernández, professor in Political Science at the Colegio de México (Colmex) and an expert on the trajectory of the historic party, "the defeat of the State of Mexico is above all symbolic, but it also shows that its electoral machinery, despite being in power, no longer works as before." The PRI had never lost in this territory, becoming the epitome of the effective formula that allowed it to govern the country for more than 70 years. "Control of social organizations, cooptation of leaderships, use of institutional resources to subdue their adversaries and in general, an identification between the party, the State and society," Hernández summarizes.
Since the birth of Morena, less than a decade ago, the party faces an existential threat, redoubled almost after every visit to the polls. López Obrador's agenda —economic nationalism, subsidies, regulation of markets and hegemonic aspiration— has been interpreted as a kind of reformulation of the PRI before the 80s, which marks the entry of an elite of rulers trained in US schools that began to give a greater predominance to the market against the classic PRI statism.
Manolo Jiménez after voting, this Sunday in Saltillo (State of Coahuila). Monica Gonzalez Islands
The organic growth of Morena during these years has been nourished, in fact, by more and more politicians with experience and past in the Mexican historical party, enlarging the thesis of an ideological overlap that could endanger the survival of the PRI. From grassroots militants to veteran former governors, as in Sonora or Sinaloa, who when they lost the square in favor of Morenoism went over to the side of López Obrador. During these last elections, the low profile of Alfredo del Mazo, the governor of the State of Mexico, who has barely shown public support for his candidate, have also raised suspicions in the same sense. The Colmex political scientist believes, in any case, that Del Mazo, the last link in a powerful PRI lineage in the State of Mexico, "has always had a gray and silent leadership." But he affirms at the same time that it is also "a sample of the loss of quality of PRI politicians."
Heavyweights of the last peak of PRI power, the government of Enrique Peña Nieto, such as Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong or Claudio Ruiz Massieu have lost influence and space in the party, cornered by the president of the party, Alejandro Moreno, who is also surrounded by accusations of opportunism and corruption. The analysts consulted believe, however, that Moreno is right to move forward, surely by the only way that can keep him alive. "Its programmatic agenda is not very different from that of the Government, but it is in its interest to remain in the alliance for 2024. Although it is not so clear if it is convenient for the PAN to bear the wear and tear of the PRI brand. The most convenient thing would be for the PAN to put a candidate and the PRI the votes and local leaderships that it still has," concludes the UNAM political scientist.
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