Thursday, July 05, 2012

pri and pri again

Bill Clinton may have been the Comeback Kid in the United States, but the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) may have a better claim to the title.

PRI was essentially the sole ruling power from 1929 to 2000.  It took a bit of creative vote-counting to keep the party where it wanted to be.  But in 2000 the voters said enough was enough.  PRI lost the presidency and its hold on both legislative houses, the deputies and senate.  It lost the presidency again in 2006.

But the comeback started in the legislative elections in 2009 when PRI won the largest bloc of seats in the chamber of deputies.

And it now owns the presidency.  As everyone expected, the voters chose Enrique Peña Nieto as the next president.  But not by much.  He bested his leftist opponent, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, by six percentage points -- 38% to 32%.

In most countries six percentage points would be a landslide.  But the result was close enough and the tallies were irregular enough that about half of the presidential ballots will be recounted before the official results are announced on Sunday.

Not that it will make much difference to López Obrador.  He lost the presidency in a squeaker in 2006.  For almost a year, he and his followers indulged in demonstrations that tied up Mexico City.  He still calls himself the rightful president -- like some Bourbon pretender.

And it looks as if Mexico may face something similar when Peña Nieto is inaugurated on 1 December.  López Obrador claims the campaign was replete with overspending, vote-buying, and favorable treatment of Peña Nieto by Mexico's television industry.  Issues he discussed during the campaign, but that were ignored by a plurality of the voters.

On Sunday, the election commission will undoubtedly tell us what we already know.  PRI owns the presidency.

But PRI's exile in the wilderness has been good for Mexican democracy.  Mexican voters have become far more sophisticated in their ticket-splitting.

The best place to see that is in the legislative election results.  Take a look at the chart at the top of this post.

In the chamber of deputies, PRI and its allies lost seats.  A sizable number.  López Obrador's party -- the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) -- will become the largest opposition group.  And, in the senate, PRI picked up enough seats to be the largest party, but not enough for a majority.

That mans there will be a lot of coalition voting in both houses to pass any legislation.

And Peña Nieto has a list of reforms that will need coalition support:
  • labor laws to ease hiring and firing
  • a broadened value-added tax
  • allowing private investment in Pemex, the national oil and gas monopoly
All three were on the reform agenda of the last president.  And the members of his National Action Party (PAN) will be the obvious allies in passing legislation.

Now, that sounds very optimistic.  A reformed Mexico with a growing economy.

But there will be plenty of obstacles in the path.  López Obrador's petulance.  PRI dinosaurs who prefer power over reform.  PAN purists reluctant  to forgive and forget.

And that is merely to say that Mexican politics may have its own unique character at times, but politics is politics the world over.

So, congratulations to the winners.  Let the games begin.


Mommy with Commuter Husband said...

Okay, I just have to Comment on No Comments. Odd.

Steve Cotton said...

Yeah.  I thought I would at least hear from the AMLO crowd.  But nada.