By RICARDO CASTILLO
On Sunday, Aug. 11, Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) held internal elections for party president. The winner was Campeche Governor-on-a leave-of-absence Alejandro Moreno Cárdenas – popularly nicknamed Alito, a diminutive for Alejandro in Campeche — by a whopping 83 percent majority.
Yet, today, the old PRI is a downtrodden party. In fact, I remember the victory of the former PRI President-elect César Camacho Quiroz, who led the party astray down to the abyss it can’t get out of today. But that story comes a few paragraphs down.
Suddenly, words that had long been forgotten popped up, defining some of the tricks of the electoral trade that were genuine PRI trademarks. Two of them were accusation of presenting at polling houses “pregnant voting boxes” and in others the reappearance of the “zapato,” you read right, shoe.
Of course, the term “pregnant voting boxes” did show up – according to numerous sources on twitter – and indeed they were not just a little bit pregnant. They were all in favor of Alito. The term “zapato” stems out of the popular game in Mexico of dominoes, and a “zapato” is applied when the winner gets the 100 points needed to win a game while the loser gets zero points.
In the case of electoral PRI customs, a set of pregnant voting boxes can easily lead to a zapato in a voting booth. Alito’s victory gave 9 percent of the vote to former Yucatan Governess Ivonne Ortega and a lesser-known contender, Laura Piñón.
But the return of the old time habits of the PRI comes as no surprise to anyone. First, the election was organized by the PRI itself, without any outside supervision. And Alito, who was fully supported by all still-ruling PRI governors, in a sort of cavalry charge popularly known as “la cargada.”
But don’t think that the PRI is now buoyant because based on the amount of members it claims, it has little to boast about. The party’s internal election organizing committee presented a total number of voters of 6.77 million individuals out of which – allegedly, don’t believe everything you read about PRI facts – 2 million showed up to vote in 6,150 booths established throughout the nation.
As usual, the election winner Alito is claiming that it was a totally clean election, while losing contenders Ortega and Piñón are complaining of “a myriad of irregularities,” including ballot box stuffing also known as “tacos,” as bunches of voting sheets are rolled in the middle like a taco, and stuffed into the box. There’s even a verb invented for this, “taquear” or “taqueo” which literally means eating tacos.
But let’s pretend that the PRI presidency election was clean and transparent, which may not be important. What is important is that Alito will be pronounced winner on Wednesday. Aug. 14, and that will set up the stage for the swearing-in ceremony, which will take place at the PRI headquarters on North Insurgentes Avenue in Mexico City.
This time, the crowning of a new PRInce will not be at all like it was six years ago in August 2013, when Camacho Quiroz, a President Enrique Peña Nieto supporter, was sworn in a ceremony that many saw as the beginning of the end, not merely for the Peña Nieto presidency, but for the PRI itself.
At that ceremony, the PRI was not just celebrating the emergence of a new PRI president, but still savoring the glorious flavor of the electoral victory Peña Nieto had obtained one year before.
But at Camacho Quiroz’s swearing-in ceremony, Camacho, perhaps in tandem with his boss Peña Nieto, made what I considered then to be a horrendous mistake. Upon being declared the party’s president, Camacho did not decline the leadership, but said then that the true president of the PRI was Peña Nieto.
The crony audience applauded the decision of naming Peña Nieto party president, yet in the eyes of the voters, this did not fit well at all. By then, Mexican voters felt echoes of the old PRI, always presided over by the president in turn until his last day in power.
And that memory told Mexicans that it was always the PRI president that imposed the PRI candidate. And the memory of those who suspected foul play from the PRI at large were not wrong at all.
When the time came in 2017 to pick the next candidate for president, Peña Nieto used the full power of party leader to appoint – in the most heinous manner Mexicans despised because in meant the imposition of a new dictator – José Antonio Meade Kuribreña as candidate.
It is written history now that Peña Nieto went down as perhaps the most unpopular and allegedly corrupt president in Mexican history, and that his candidate had to carry that scourge through the campaign, without even party support. It was a clear sign that the language of pointing the finger at the chosen one – historically known as “el dedazo” or the finger-pointing of the PRI candidate when the PRI was emperor of Mexico, failed miserably. Politically speaking, today the name of the PRI is mud.
But in any case, politics goes on and Moreno Camacho will be in charge of bringing back to life the carcass of what was once the mightiest political party in the history of Mexico.
And for follow-ups, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), founder of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) currently in power in the presidency and both houses of Congress, has stepped aside from any candidate influencing in the Morena presidential elections, which will be coming up in November.
AMLO reminded party loyalists and potential candidates that he may have founded Morena, but said that he has nothing to do with it anymore as he is not the party’s president, but the president of all Mexicans- He said he will have absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming internal Morena election.
That’s bad news for all forecasters who are claiming that Morena is the new PRI.