Politics: PRI Surprises, PAN Disappoints

MEXICO - Report 06 Jun 2017 by Guillermo Valdes and Esteban Manteca

We don’t yet have final results from Sunday’s state elections, but the preliminary results as of Monday afternoon make clear which parties won most of the contests.

The PRI apparently managed to hold off strong challenges in two crucial gubernatorial contests, including the all-important State of Mexico, where initial tallies give it an almost 3 pp margin of victory over a highly splintered field of opposition candidates. That was just enough to give it a major political boost, and revive its hopes to seriously compete in the 2018 presidential race, but the momentary euphoria cannot erase the fact that the party’s reputation has been marred by a string of high profile corruption scandals that have already cost it several governorships, as well as by the stubbornly dismal approval ratings of the of the federal government, President Peña Nieto and the PRI.

The PAN, which began the year with high hopes that it could sweep all of this year’s gubernatorial races, appears to have been the biggest loser as it may have to settle for the smallest of the states in play, whose government it will have to share with the PRD. Even more troublingly for the party, its campaign was a disaster in the State of Mexico, where its candidate placed a distant fourth, thereby immediately intensifying conflicts within the party nationally and potentially jeopardizing its prospects for building a strong coalition in 2018.
Despite falling just short of victory in the State of Mexico, Morena and its national leader, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, clearly emerged strengthened by Sunday’s results and got some significant political wind in their sails heading into 2018. The other main party on the left, the PRD, got some badly needed momentum from a strong third-place finish in the State of Mexico as well as victories with its PAN coalition allies in Nayarit and Veracruz.

But we shouldn’t read too much into these results when looking ahead to 2018. One thing we do know is that ever since Mexico adopted a more competitive electoral system in the 1990s, state contests in the year prior to a presidential election have never served as a good harbinger of which party will lead the presidential transition.

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