By RICARDO CASTILLO
There have been several interpretations to what happened on Sunday, Jan. 26, during the “National Congress” held by one block of Mexico’s National Regeneration Movement (Morena) political party led by Bertha Luján, in which the “assembly” voted in Alfonso Ramírez Cuellar as “interim president,” with the job of paving the way to hold smooth elections for the presidency.
An absent opposing block, led by still-president Yeidckol Polevnsky, immediately declared the election of Ramírez Cuellar an “illegal act” – along with the entire “national assembly,” whose results were immediately challenged before the Electoral Tribunal, which over sees and mediates in intra-party conflicts.
Polevnsky has been president of Morena since it was founded in 2014, and she wants to hang on to the presidency, while her opponent Luján, a top party leader, would just love to occupy the president’s seat for the next three years.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s splintered groups of minority parties were rejoicing at what they interpret as a “schism” within the young, but ruling majority party. These groups are hoping that the notorious splinter at Morena will fizzle the now-powerful political party “into nothingness.”
Less “reactionary” interpretations of what happened are that, since Morena is such a young party – founded in 2014 by now-Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) — it is still settling in, and the ongoing power struggle between Polevnsky and Luján is normal in a maturing political organization.
Others (old habits die hard) are expecting for AMLO to carry out “a rudder hit” to strengthen the ship in rough waters. In the old Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) dictatorship days, the president of the nation was also the president of the PRI, as happened in 2013, when Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was declared also the PRI president, as custom had it.
AMLO has repeated said that he will not get involved in intra-party politicking since he was voted president to rule over all Mexicans, not just one party.
Immediately after being named interim president on Sunday, Ramírez Cuellar guaranteed that there would be “an even playing field” for the contestants for the Morena presidency: the two aforementioned Polevnsky and Luján, and Chamber of Deputies Majority Leader Mario Delgado,
“They must have the certainty of an impartial internal election,” he said, “and a unity decision for the winner so that (she/he) can govern with strength to back up the changes going on within the country.”
But, surprise, on Monday, Jan. 27, candidate Delgado Carrillo withdrew from the competition. His argument for doing so was that the assembly held on the day before had not paid heed to the recommendations made by AMLO, who had suggested the assembly elect its president.
“Morena has gotten itself into a lot of trouble by not listening to the recommendation of President López Obrador that the election of the Morena president be carried out through polls,” he said repeatedly, claiming this was the only way to retake a “path of unity.”
Sunday’s election of Ramírez Cuellar was clearly in disobedience of the president’s “suggestion,” Delgado said, pondering over the nature of leadership within the party.
Through polls, Delgado added, “we could’ve saved ourselves many problems, much jerking around, lots of embarrassment. So I hope the return to the path of unity be retaken, and I hope the President is listened to. For as long as Morena listened to the President, it did very well and became a democratic phenomena not merely in the history of the nation but worldwide.”
That might be Deputy Delgado’s interpretation but at the end of the power line President AMLO is thinking differently about the party he founded five years ago now wields to presidents:
“I think nothing. Silence. It doesn’t correspond to me, I don’t have a reason to participate in that. I’ve said it before, I wish for all political parties to solve their differences through the democratic method.”
AMLO also stated that he continues to be a member of Morena, only from the distnce. “I’ve got a leave of absence because I have the duty to govern for all Mexicans. Before the president was the political boss of the party that get him elected; he was political boss, he decided who was to lead the party and which way it was heading to. That’s not the case anymore, I am not the chief of the party, nor of a group or of a clique.”
To make his point last Monday he met with 12 PRI governors to mend fences and he will do the same next week with National Action (PAN) and the Labor Party (PT) and Morena leaders to settle differences and work with them “for the good of the nation.”
There are several Mexican policial observers who consider that the rise of Morena to power came at a rocket speed, leaving many of its members still dizzy from the ride. But, then, the potential rewards of gaining the leadership of Morena are many, potentially at peril if the party does not muster unity now.
Looming in the offing is the 2021 midterm federal elections, in which the seats of 16 governorships will be on the ballots, plus a change in the Chamber of Deputies and a couple of thousand municipal presidencies.
The logistics of organizing a party still pretty much in the making represents not just a huge challenge for contenders, but signifies – like in the old PRI – times for the repositioning of individuals with political ambitions to gain ground for their cause while still helping Morena. It’s an opportunity they simply can’t bypass.
And for 2024, if Morena does not collapse from the present schism, the cherry on the cake would, of course, be winning the nomination to run for president. Believe me, right now many names are being shuffled around, with most of those named claiming, “who, me?” But there they are, even if in hiding.
And lest we forget, with the Morena presidency comes the 1.76 billion pesos in campaign cash issued by the National Electoral Institute (INE) to all parties by law. As the majority party, Morena gets the lion’s share of these funds, and believe me, it’s no small sun, and much more for a party that literally rose to power from rags.
The one obvious reality now is that, as a political party, Morena is an orphan. It’s founder fulfilled his dream of having it take him to the presidency.
With Polovnsky and Luján now left alone in the fray for party president, Mexican macho jokers are doing their own fortunetelling, claiming that there’s going to be not just hair pulling in this fight, but also of handbag banging or two.