MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican left’s most visible figure and former presidential candidate, has said that his Morena party could possibly form an alliance with the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the party he once led, with the intention of making an impact on the national stage.
In September of 2012, López Obrador renounced his membership in the PRD and shortly after, he announced that he formed the Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (Morena) or National Regeneration Movement, a socialdemocratic party.
López Obrador, along with other members of the PRD, was angered and disillusioned with the fact that the party had signed center-right President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Pact for Mexico, a political agreement aimed at reforming several aspects of Mexican politics, education and the economy through public policy changes.
The Pact for Mexico was signed by Peña Nieto himself and the then-heads of the PRD (Jesús Zambrano Grijalva), Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI – Cristina Díaz), the conservative National Action Party (PAN – Gustavo Madero Muñoz) and later, the Green Party as a whole.
Peña Nieto’s plan to change the status quo was already being observed carefully due to his party’s notoriously corrupt history. As he faced further backlash due to his planned reforms, he lured the Greens and the PRD to sign his Pact for Mexico by promising to devote more of the federal budget to public services. Furthermore, he said that he would raise taxes on the rich and close tax loopholes.
Peña Nieto’s hopes that the moves would quiet, at least temporarily, some of the left-wing opposition to his reform proposals, came to fruition as both the Green Party and the PRD signed on.
Unions were busted in the public education sector, which was also overhauled, while laws were introduced that were designed to break up the monopoly in the country on the television, telephone and internet industries. The president received some support from opposition parties in passing these two pieces of legislation, two of his pre-presidential term goals.
However, Peña Nieto’s plan to overhaul PEMEX, the national oil company, was the tipping point and was vehemently criticized and rejected by many dissenting voices within the PRD. The most notable of these voices was López Obrador, who aggressively protested the education and PEMEX reform laws by leading over 100,000 demonstrators down the streets of Mexico City. To his dismay, the reform laws were passed and ratified as both houses of Congress are dominated by PRI and PAN.
Due to López Obrador’s stark ideological objections to the Pact for Mexico and prior disagreements within the PRD, he definitively left the party that he led from 1996 to 1999 after they agreed to sign the Pact, taking a good number of his party colleagues with him.
His links to the PRD run even deeper beside his membership since its inception; he represented the party as Mayor of the Federal District (Mexico City) from 2000 to 2005 and was their presidential candidate twice, narrowly losing both the 2006 and 2012 contests amid allegations of widespread electoral fraud.
Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, one of the founders of the PRD and spiritual leader of the party, criticized López Obrador for creating Morena and weakening his former party in the process. In yet another blow for the PRD, however, Cárdenas himself would leave the party in November of 2014 citing “vast differences” with the current ruling class of the party, as did Marcelo Ebrard, former Mexico City mayor (2006-2012).
The problems continued as the more moderate PRD figures were involved in various corruption scandals across Mexico, although no more so than members of other parties but with more of a damaging effect as the PRD is a left-leaning party.
In federal, legislative and gubernatorial elections, the PRD has taken a beating in recent years, especially in its birthplace and historical heart of Mexico City.
Historically, the capital was a national entity whose political leadership was determined by federal authorities but in 1997, a constitutional reform finally gave Mexico City residents the right to elect officials to their own legislative assembly, the same right that the residents of the 31 Mexican states had for many years.
Since then, the 9 million residents of Mexico City proper have elected their own representatives and until 2015, they have elected the PRD to an absolute majority in the legislative assembly and have made the capital the party’s stronghold, a bastion of socialdemocratic policies in a nation of mostly conservative leanings.
In the June 2015 elections, however, Morena made quite an impact as the party won five municipalities (including several of the most important) to the PRD’s six. In the overall popular vote, the PRD won 19.8 percent while Morena established itself as the more popular choice with 23.5 percent of the popular vote.
While the PRD still outperformed Morena nationwide (10.8 percent to 8.4 percent), the newcomer’s performance in the all-important and influential capital and its solid showing nationally is a bad sign for the PRD, especially considering that the aforementioned 10.8 percent nationwide vote was the party’s second-worst performance in history after their first official election in 1991. In addition, their representation in the Chamber of Deputies dropped from 104 to 60 seats while Morena won 36 in its first race.
The latest blow for the PRD came just month as Agustín Basave Benítez, the soft spoken academic, stepped down as party leader less than nine months after he assumed control.
López Obrador acknowledged that the left in the country, dominated for so long by the PRD, would see its votes split after he formed his new party. For the former two-time presidential candidate, however, the founding of Morena was inevitable because the PRD had “stopped working for the change it always sought in Mexico in the past.”
Now, however, with the old center-left stalwart reeling from internal issues and a continuing loss of support from their traditional base, López Obrador sent a message to his old party: “Seeing how they are debilitated and that Morena is still growing, perhaps we can analyze a possible pact if the PRD moves a safe distance away from the mafia of power,” referring to PRI and President Peña Nieto.
Peña Nieto just apologized this week in a televised address for the scandal involving his wife, actress Angélica Rivera, in which she purchased a Mexico City mansion in 2012 just months before her husband assumed the presidency. The home was built and sold by a company which has since been awarded more than 80 major public building contracts by the PRI government.
“The PRD heads will have to show that they have formed a clear line between themselves and the current regime. Furthermore, they will have to show that they have a will to transform Mexico like they did many years ago,” López Obrador added in his interview this week with a Mexico City radio station.
With about 15 months to go before the opening of the electoral campaign for the July 2018 presidential election, it seems that López Obrador is seeing a leaderless PRD, a scandal-plagued and low-polling PRI government and the growth of Morena as a combination that is beneficial to a possible third presidential run.
According to Mexican polling firm Parametría, a general “intention to vote” along party lines with an eye on the next presidential and legislative elections showed the results as follows: the conservative PAN was first with 32 percent, the PRI was second with 24 percent, Morena was third with 21 percent, ‘other parties’ were fourth with 15 percent while the PRD was last with 8 percent.
Combining forces, however, a PRD-Morena alliance jumps ahead significantly. The same poll showed that if this hypothetical alliance was a reality, it would hold a lead of two percentage points over the PRI and five percentage points over the PAN. If other growing center-left parties like the Citizens’ Movement join, the alliance would have a clear advantage going into the next election.
“I am seeking an alliance that would act as a leftist, democratic, patriotic and socially conscious political organization,” López Obrador said. At the head of this hypothetical alliance would be, of course, López Obrador as the left’s most prominent profile and voice.