Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Photo: Pulso SLP

By RICARDO CASTILLO

A mystery shadow is lingering over the future performance of Mexico’s currently leading political party, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), in the 2021 midterm elections. Keep in mind that on Wednesday, Sept. 9, the National Electoral Institute (INE) will notify all political parties in Mexico to get their candidates for office on line to be sworn in by December.

That notice will find Morena in total internal disarray.

For the past year, there have been numerous attempts by many militants to gain control of the still-young political machine brilliantly concocted by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), which led him to win the presidency in 2018.

Founded in 2014, López Obrador presided over the party for a few months until he passed the leadership to a young and ambitious leftist leader, Martí Batres. Batres, now an elected senator for Mexico City, on becoming a hopeful candidate, had to leave the Morena presidency and passed it on to Yeidckol Polevnsky, who tried to hang on to power only to get removed from the secretary general seat and forced to compete for the presidency against three other candidates.

To make a long political imbroglio a bit clearer, Morena has been trying to hold internal presidential elections since November 2019, to no avail. An election organized by one of the factions trying to gain control of the party, led by Bertha Luján, was held in January, but was invalidated by its sectoral (tribal, in leftwing Mexican lingo) slant.

It was then decided that leaders Polevnsky and Luján, along with the Chamber of Deputies Morena leader Mario Delgado and substitute Senator Alejandro Rojas, were not the ideal people to organize the elections for the movement’s president.

It was last February when then-Deputy Alfonso Ramírez Cuellar offered to mediate the party presidency and organize the presidential elections. All other candidates agreed that it would be a good move to let someone with objectivity like Ramírez Cuellar carry on with the electoral organization.

But then, all hell broke loose in Mexico with the dramatic intrusion of “the Chinese plague” with the strange name of coronavirus. All hopes to put together an election tumbled like dominoes, one after the other, until finally, in April, the Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Power of the Federation (TEPJF) postponed the election indefinitely “until new notice.”

The pandemic-related dictate included the suspension of two assembly and municipal state elections in Coahuila and Hidalgo that had been programmed for the first week of last June.

The pandemic and the TEPJF created a vacuum in the electoral system that lingered on until the first days of August. It was then that Morena Interim President Ramírez Cuellar, upon seeing the electoral year hovering, requested that the TEPJF postpone the Morena internal presidential elections until three months after the midterm election on June 6, 2021.

The TEPJF discussed the request, and while doing so, unleashed a barrage of “friendly fire” in which even senior Deputy Porfirio Muñoz Ledo accused Morena members of bombarding the judges with “million-peso cannon ball blasts” (“cañonazos de millón,” in Spanish for million pesos kickbacks) for their decision on how to proceed with the internal presidential election at Morena.

On Aug. 20, a week ago today, the TEPJF made public a decision that now stands. Pro Tempore President Ramírez Cuellar was exactly that, pro tempore, and had 45 days to leave the post as he had stayed longer than it was expected, regardless of the health situation in the nation that had prevented public gatherings since March 20 until the beginning of August.

The gist of the situation at Morena is that Ramírez Cuellar has until Oct. 6 to shape up or ship out, and in between, oversee the internal presidential election.

In the meantime, there has been a deep debate as to how to hold the election. The only thing for certain is that the INE will oversee it, but it has not announce either when or how.

For one, AMLO, who has stayed – actually, as much as he can – aloof from internal party politicking. He proposed that the statutory raised-hand vote election be made and the results accepted. Ramírez Cuellar was against this, preferring a regular balloting count, with votes coming from registered militants.

When asked on Monday, Aug. 24, about the TEPJF decision on Ramírez Cuellar’s removal in 45 days, AMLO said: “I see it as a good thing. Why did he not accept the poll if it is in the party statutes? Why not submit to what the people decide? In democracy, the people are in command.”

This is where the internal workings of Morena stand now, meaning it is a leaderless party with a slippery foot on an equally slippery political tightwire, and worse yet, with the pending initiation of the electoral year.

But most importantly, inside Morena, the power struggles in the states are bound to increase with the “unleashing of the crickets” that are being vetted as potential candidates nationwide.

For Morena, the only reality at hand these days is that the 2021 electoral clock is ticking.

…Aug. 27, 2020

 

 

 

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