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Mexico’s ruling party in ‘intensive care’ after drubbing


Mexico’s ruling party in ‘intensive care’ after drubbing

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MEXICO CITY − Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was one of the most successful brands in 20th-century politics, but a record defeat in Sunday’s presidential election has left its future hanging in the balance.

Pushed into third place with its worst-ever showing, the PRI candidate Jose Antonio Meade won just over 16 per cent of the vote, less than a third of that garnered by the winner, veteran leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, preliminary results show.

The wipeout swept the country, shattering the centrist PRI in many traditional strongholds, including Atlacomulco, the hometown of the party’s outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto, about 55 miles (89 km) from Mexico City.

The PRI, which governed continuously from 1929 to 2000, and again from 2012, also lost all nine gubernatorial races on Sunday. Until 1989, the PRI had never lost a governorship.

Sunday’s results mean that Mexico’s 31 states are set to be governed by five different parties and one independent.

The PRI’s precipitous decline leaves a void in the fractured political landscape, which Lopez Obrador and his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party look set to fill.

Rampant gang violence, patchy economic growth and a slew of corruption scandals have battered the PRI’s standing. Pena Nieto had the lowest approval rating of any president in Mexico’s 21st century history.

The PRI defeat is the latest backlash to hit Latin American governments dogged by corruption, with scandals bringing down presidents from Brazil to Peru.

Founded to consolidate political control after the bloodshed of the 1910-1920 Mexican Revolution, the PRI was, in part, a reaction against the excessive concentration of power in one man under the long rule of dictator Porfirio Diaz.

Keeping a tight rein on the country through a mix of corporatism, political patronage and corruption, the party initially had notable successes.

Poverty fell steadily from the end of World War II during a period of rapid economic growth known as the “Mexican Miracle.” But eventually, currency devaluations and overspending took their toll, and Mexico defaulted on its foreign debt in 1982.

The PRI held on, but its image was tarnished. Another major financial crisis in 1994-95 helped pave the way for the party’s first presidential election loss in 2000.

Rising drug-cartel violence under its conservative successors opened the door to a PRI comeback in 2012, though with its power and prestige diminished. Now only a rump of the current PRI will remain in the next Congress.

Under Pena Nieto, the PRI and its allies had a slim majority in the lower house. But projections by Mexico’s federal electoral authority suggest it lost over three-quarters of its seats on Sunday as MORENA and its allies dominated.

Like many in the ranks of MORENA, which was only formally constituted as a party in 2014, Lopez Obrador cut his teeth in the PRI. By the late 1980s, he had had enough, and split.

Yet one of his political heroes remains Lazaro Cardenas, a key figure in PRI history who nationalized the oil industry in 1938 during the party’s early, more socialist days.

Like Cardenas, Lopez Obrador traversed the remotest provinces to create a base of support among Mexico’s neediest – a sector of the population some in the party believe its technocratic leaders of recent years have lost touch with.

PRI will hold 12 state governorships after the election – fewer than ever before, but still as many as any other party. (Reuters)