By RICARDO CASTILLO
Is there anything left for Mexico’s Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to celebrate now that they have been diagnosed as last-stage, end-of-life patients? Maybe not, other than the fact that in their deathbeds they are still desperately clinging to life.
The stories of the two parties is extremely different, although their impending demises are similar. On Sunday, May 5, the PRD celebrated its 30th anniversary, while one day earlier, the PRI commemorated its 90th birthday. Both parties are now displaying the same symptoms of decay, despite their difference in age.
But in order not to mix you up, let me talk about the political situations of each of these Mexican parties_
O Monday, May 6, a cartoonist at the leftist daily La Jornada published a drawing that may have left a lot of people laughing, but it must have surely rubbed a sore spot in those who still believe in birthday parties.
The cartoon shows a coffin flanked by four candles and a text that reads: “Happy 30th Birthday PRD.” Ouch!!!
On May 5, 1989, the PRD was born as the great hope of the Mexican left. Most of its militancy came from the rank and file of the old PRI. It was a splinter from the old system, which had by then embraced neoliberalism as its banner ideology, breaking away from the old standby practices of the Mexican Revolution of giving land and freedom to the poverty-stricken lower social classes.
The PRD was brought to life by former presidential candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas who – now we know – was robbed of the 1988 election by former President Miguel de la Madrid, who ordered the vote count to be halted and declared the PRI’s Carlos Salinas de Gortari the winner.
Among other founding stalwart members still around were current Chamber of Deputies President and party ideologist Porfirio Muñoz Ledo and Mexico’s current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). Of course, these two now belong to the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, and are happily playing undertaker to the PRD.
But that was yesteryear. On May 5 at the PRD birthday gathering in Mexico City and in the few states where the party still enjoys registration, it was clear that the overriding philosophy was that either we go under or we stick around as a mere presence of a once-mighty political force.
The party’s demise began on 2013, after AMLO lost his second presidential election and decided that it was not him what was the problem with PRD, but a group of leaders within the party who decided not to let him run for a third time after negotiations with then-President Enrique Peña Nieto. AMLO splintered from the PRD and formed his own Morena political movement, taking with him two-thirds of the PRD following. AMLO and Morena went on to win the 2018 presidential election.
Another reason for the PRD’s demise was its leaders, who, instead of joining Morena – its ideologically akin to the party – opted to join the conservative – rightwing, if you will – National Action Party (PAN) and its 2018 presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya. In the election, the PRD got just 1.6 million votes, barely enough to survive and be left to live under the shadow of the PAN, which received 22 percent of the total vote.
Today, the PRD has very little to show for itself in terms of a government presence: only one standing governor, Silvano Aureoles of Michoacán, 11 deputies and five senators in the National Congress.
The PRD also has no party registration in 11 of the 32 Mexican states, and in the rest, it only has 62 state representatives, with one in nine states and none in eight others. It still, however, governs 263 (10 percent) of Mexican municipalities.
Also, the PRD is financially broke, and after last year’s disastrous election, it had to lay off 175 of its 193 employees. It owes nearly 285 million pesos in back taxes and nearly 50 million in regular supply debts, including the rental of its headquarters on Calle Benjamin Franklin in Colonia Roma, which may have to vacate soon.
PRD interim president Ángel Ávila Romero, however, believes there’s life after death and will continue with the dream of having a leftist Mexico.
“It’s going to be hard work, but we admit and recognize that, given the failure of the neoliberal economic programs of the past 30 years, to renew the left is the only option we have left,” he said.
The PRI forever? Maybe not
At present, the Institutional Revolutionary Party is entering into quicksand terrain, which may mean its total disappearance if things don’t turn around for it soon.
To begin with, the PRI has been abandoned by its leader and former president, Enrique Peña Nieto, whose dictatorship led the party into the boondocks it finds itself immersed in at present.
After a six-year term of Peña Nieto appointments of now-failed leaders such as former Foreign Relations (SRE) Secretary Luis Videgaray and ex-presidential candidate José Antonio Meade, neither of whom was a militant (candidate Meade was not even a registered member), the PRI continues to skid into the precipice.
Founded in 1929 as a political organization to make room for all the still-warring political groups that fought the 1910 Mexican Revolution, the PRI was fashioned after the one-party systems of Russia’s Communist Party and Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Party. This format served well until 1982, when the PRI began to erode. The rest is history.
On May 6, Mexico’s National Political Council held a somewhat raucous meeting to outline how to carry out intramural party elections, something the members of the PRI never knew how to do since they had always performed by appointment rather than democracy.
Originally, it was thought the National Electoral Institute (INE) would organize the upcoming Sept. 1 internal election, but the INE budgeted the cost of the primary at 230 million pesos and Peña Nieto not only abandoned the party, but also left it broke.
One option for an election was that it would be organized by the party. However, under the leadership of Claudia Ruiz Massieu – former President Salinas’ niece – a primary would not be credible, since most people believe that it would be Salinas who would actually be running the election. And mind you, within the PRI internal circles, the name of Salinas is mud.
There are currently four potential candidates for the PRI presidency – provided they can arrange for a national election, which is no piece of cake to organize. They are former Yucatan Governor Ivonne Ortega, former Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz, current Campeche Governor Alejandro Moreno and former National University dean and former Health Secretary José Narro.
However, on the night of May 6, all four candidates backed by the now-scant National Political Council appealed to its membership to unite and carry out national elections through “direct consultation” of registered members.
This approach may or may not work, but it is the only option for the PRI to stay afloat. The main question for everyone is, does the PRI still boast the 9 million registered members it said it had prior to the 2018 election?
So, that’s the general outlook of the PRD and the PRI, which, if they don’t meet the January 2020 INE deadline to file the needed number of members, will not get to run candidates in the 2021 midterms elections to renew 500 federal deputies (representatives) and nearly 3,000 municipal mayors, plus 16 governors.
From this pundit’s view of his political crystal ball, the offing looks extremely dubious for both the PRD and PRI, and that may mean byebye for both parties.