Politics: What sort of opposition can endure?

MEXICO - Report 12 Aug 2019 by Guillermo Valdes, Alejandro Hope Pinsón and Francisco González

At least one, and perhaps both of the main opposition parties in Mexico will hold leadership contests in the coming days and weeks, with significant implications for the political situation. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) held a national consultation last Sunday to elect a new national president, and the outcome could determine the weight and composition of the opposition going forward.

The greatly discredited party was devastated when it lost the presidency 2018, relegated to a distant third in that year’s congressional and senate races and to minor party status in some of this year’s state contests, although it retains just under a third of state governors. But there is considerable doubt as to whether it will remain part of the opposition following this vote as it struggles to find the essential funding and political cover to survive.

The favorite to become the new party president has gained a reputation as someone working hard to remain within the good graces of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose government lacks the two-thirds Senate majority it needs to pass the constitutional reforms entailed by the “fourth transformation” project, something the PRI is in a position to help it achieve.

More crucially, the PRI has yet to find a niche for itself in the new political scenario. Given the extent to which Morena and especially AMLO share many of the politics and ideology of the historical PRI, the PAN is clearly in better position to assume the mantel of the opposition, given that a significant part of PRI supporters, especially the party’s campesino sector, display an affinity for the President’s Morena party.

The opposition could get a boost from those segments of the business community newly emboldened to challenge the AMLO government, including the Coparmex president, who is harboring 2024 presidential ambitions of his own. But if career PAN politicians come to see such an initiative as threatening their own political prospects, it could lead to a further fragmentation of the last major opposition party in the country even as ex President Felipe Calderón works to create a new center-right alternative.

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