There is an old saying in Mexican political parties that when by the time proposals hit the voting floor all differences have been “ironed out” and if there are any wrinkles left… never mind them.
This was the case in the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) 22nd General Assembly last Saturday at the Sports Palace where over 10,000 PRI militants gathered to vote basically on five different issues that had already been agreed upon last week during the five “theme tables” in which they were discussed.
As tradition would have it, in all of the five theme tables you could just feel President Enrique Peña Nieto’s hand. For good or bad of the future of the PRI, they were all approved unanimously and make some really radical changes on the basic regulations that had been since the last gathering after Peña Nieto was elected president and also appointed the party’s top leader.
The first change – and for habitual readers I had discussed them last week so I am going to repeat some of them – was the most drastic modification in which “an even playing field” was established for all those seeking public office not just for PRI militants but for all citizens wanting to run under the PRI banner.
Prior to Saturday’s vote it was mandatory, for instance, for anyone presidential hopeful to have a minimum 10-year militancy in the party. As of now, that’s no more the case.
Why such a radical change came about? The question is valid and has an answer which is different to PRI members than it is a valid question. The real reason for outside observers is that at PRI it is said that it was to create “an even playing field” (pardon the repetition) for all presidential hopefuls.
For outsiders the reason is that all PRI presidential hopefuls have been doing very poorly in the recent opinion polls and coming way behind the other parties potential contenders. And the real reason for doing away with the 10-year minimum militancy was to open up the way for potential candidates such as Finance and Treasury Secretary José Antonio Meade Kuribreña who has behaved like a real PRI member serving well under President Peña Nieto, even if in the polls Meade is also doing poorly.
This move gives President Peña Nieto a wider choice of candidates to choose from as in the end it will be him selecting the man who will be the PRI candidate.
But it is not just the presidential candidacy that is at stake, but a myriad of candidacies for the Chamber of Deputies (500) and the Senate (128) opening up the potential candidacies to younger PRI members who have been curtailed in the past by the 10-year minimum militancy “lock” as the clause was called.
Among other things PRI voted was to allow that 30 percent of available candidacies go to young people and 10 percent go to native candidates of Indian origin as well as making sure that 50 percent of all candidacies go to women, and the other 50 percent to males in order to even out the gender political balance.
If PRI is and has been is a bagful of opportunists. It’s become clear that serving either in the Senate or the Chamber of Deputies is good business so in trying to clean up house the participants in the theme tables decided to ban the existence of “plurinominal grass hoppers.” Plurinominal is a system in which at the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate were the number of seats were increased to give minority parties an extra representation according to the voting percentage it received in the last election. PRI helped itself with a big spoon on this issue and some of the most cherished seats are those allotted to people who did not run.
Well, that’s to be no more at PRI. “Those who are senators, federal deputies or state assemblymen through the proportional representation way may not now be posted in consecutive elections either for the same seat or through the same system,” as put by Senator Graciela Ruiz, that is, through appointment. No more “chapulines” – grass hoppers.
Finally PRI has decided to outline the attributions to what is to be known as an Anti-Corruption Secretariat to be operated by the National Executive Committee. This is a good one because if anything PRI is infamous for its corrupt officials and politicians. Who’s going to run this new Anti-Corruption-Secretariat?
The determination to make these changes in the five theme tables prior to Saturday’s General Assembly and the five different themes were changes in the statutes, a declaration of principles, a vision of the future, ethics and accountability and its action program.
The Saturday meeting concluded with a pat-on-the-back speech to the large crowd by President Enrique Peña Nieto, who claims that whenever PRI is elected there’s good governance.
This is the first step towards selecting a candidate for the 2018 election. The next gathering, which will not be as large, will come next October when PRI leadership in the states will vote on the fashion in which the candidate will be chosen.
Many still believe that President Peña Nieto will not exercise his tradition given right to choose a presidential hopeful who first, will have to win a highly competitive election when the moment comes.
That’s going to be a tough one and the triumphalist ambiance of Saturday’s powwow may just wane away.