By JESSICA GUERRERO
MORELIA, Michoacán — Less than two years until the long-awaited presidential elections of 2024 are held in Mexico, the country will soon experience a political prelude of great relevance during the midterm elections for governor in the states of Coahuila and the State of Mexico (EdoMéx), which will likely define the course of Mexican politics toward the country’s presidency.
The State of Mexico, located in central part of the country, is one of the largest industrial corridors in the nation and also one of the states with the highest population growth in the last decade, mainly due to its convenient proximity to Mexico City, the country’s capital, where a large part of the state’s inhabitants commute to on a daily basis for work, education and business purposes.
But why is the State of Mexico so relevant to Mexican politics? The answer to this question is simple: This state has the largest voters registry in the country, with almost 11 million people signed up to vote, representing just over 13 percent of the total constituency in the country.
The State of Mexico is also currently the largest political stronghold of the centralist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which founded its greatest hegemonic fortress there, governing for almost a century uninterruptedly. EdoMéx is one of the few Mexican states that has remained loyal to this party.
However, this prosperity that the PRI has historically had in the State of Mexico seems to be threatened today by the overwhelming force that the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, founded by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). has demonstrated in the country’s political life during the last decade.
Morena’s first attempt to seize the governorship of the State of Mexico from the PRI occurred in 2017 when, with the support of the then-party president López Obrador, the then-mayor of the municipality of Texcoco, Delfina Gómez Álvarez, ran as a candidate for governor of the state.
Although the results of that election did not entirely favor Morena’s objectives, by losing the election to PRI candidate, Alfredo del Mazo Maza, the difference in the number of counted votes between the two candidates was relatively small, with a 169, 167-vote difference that represented only 2.78 percent of the total polling.
In this new election, although the candidates have not yet been officially presented by the political parties, in the case of Morena, it has been unofficially announced that Gómez Álvarez, who is currently the head of the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico (SEP), will, once again, be the Morena candidate to compete for the governorship of the State of Mexico in 2023. The above, according to the results of polls carried out internally in the party.
Despite the fact that the periods of proselytism and political campaigns for the 2023 electoral process have not officially started, according to the guidelines of the National Electoral Institute (INE), the parties seem to have started their campaign activities in advance, publishing unofficial polls in the media and bombarding the state’s inhabitants with billboards and propaganda promoting their respective preliminary candidates.
On the other hand, to date, the PRI and the conservative National Action Party (PAN) have not disclosed their strategy for this upcoming election. It is still uncertain whether they will ally in a coalition, as they have done in other elections to cushion the overwhelming force of Morena, or if they will compete separately on their own.
So far, the PAN has been pushing its own candidate, Enrique Vargas del Villar, which the party announced on Friday, Aug. 5.
Vargas del Villar is a successful businessman and longtime PAN militant who has served both as a state legislator and mayor and who has a strong following in the state.
Although this lukewarmness and apparent disorganization of the PRI and the PAN regarding their political strategy in the upcoming elections could play against them and give them a disadvantage, for Morena the picture is not perfect either, since the differences and clashes between its militants are becoming more and more evident, as well as the growing division of internal groups within the party.
The appointment of Gómez Álvarez as Morena’s candidate for the governorship of EdoMéx takes place in the midst of an ongoing internal conflict within the party due to numerous accusations of lack of transparency and authoritarianism by the party’s leadership in its internal elections, blatantly favoring certain militants while relegating others.
Moreover, Gomez Alvarez’s political career with Morena has not been entirely faultless. Just a few months ago, the party was fined 4.9 million pesos by the INE for having carried out an irregular financing network for Morena during 2013 to 2015, through the city council of the municipality of Texcoco, in the State of Mexico, during the administration of Gómez Álvarez as mayor.
According to the INE’s investigation, during those two years, 10 percent of the payroll of the municipal public workers was illegally withheld, with the intention of funding the formation of the then-nascent Morena party.
As Enrique Quintana of the Mexican daily newspaper El Financiero pointed out in his column on Sunday, Aug. 7, there are many reasons why she could lose the race.
Although the nomination of Vargas del Villar as the PAN candidate for the governorship has been interpreted by some as a possible rupture of the opposition alliance, Quintana said that, in reality, he opened the door to a common candidacy of the parties of the alliance.
“The Mexican politicians of the PRI, PAN and Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) are not stupid and they know that contending separately against Morena is the guarantee of certain defeat,” Quintana wrote.
“Despite the fact that the polls favor Gómez Álvarez for now, the reality is that Morena is not going to have a field day in the State of Mexico.”
There are several reasons why Morena can lose the State of Mexico.
In addition to having lost her bid for the post in 2021 to the PAN-PRI-PRD alliance, she has racked up a long line of potential enemies, both within and outside Morena.
Moreover, Morena has been losing votes in the State of Mexico.
In the 2017 state elections, Gómez Álvarez obtained 1.802 million votes, which then represented 30.8 percent of the total. In 2018, however, López Obrador obtained 3.840 million votes, that is, almost 2million more than those obtained by Gómez Álvarez.
However, that percentage of the vote was not maintained in the federal elections last year, in which Gómez Álvarez´s candidates for deputies (or those of her allies) obtained almost a million less than those of López Obrador. If the trend continues, the electoral result in the EdoMéx could be a coin toss.
Of course, as Quintana noted, the greatest challenge for the opposition will be to effectively resolve the issue of appointing its candidate.
The PRI, which may have more clout in EdoMéx than the PAN, is leaning toward its own candidate, either Alejandra del Moral or Ana Lilia Herrera.
For now, it is a political game of wait-and-see, and the stakes are high.
Without a doubt, the midterm elections next year will be very relevant for the direction of Mexican politics toward the presidential elections of 2024.
And while some polls and trends favor Morena over the other parties in the State of Mexico, nothing is yet definite.
These elections, especially for the PRI, will represent a turning point in its future within Mexican politics and a glimpse of what lies ahead in 2024. Due to its electoral importance, the State of Mexico will be definitely the closest race to witness toward Mexico’s 2024 presidential elections.