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PRI Split on Candidate

The waves are hitting hard and the PRI boat is rocking
By The News · 27 of July 2017 09:51:22
Boat, No available, photo: Flickr

If you don’t want to waste your reading time stop now and jump to another subject of interest. But if you’d like to know how the political boat is rocking at the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), read on.

For the past six months, PRI has been holding state conventions to determine the manner to pick the next candidate for president. In case you’re wondering what’s odd about it, well, it is very odd, as traditionally it is the president in turn who picks his own successor, and in this case Enrique Peña Nieto has let it be know that he is respectful of timing and form and will wait until the timing’s ripe to make his call.

During the state conventions, all of them in preparation for the national convention to be held in Mexico City next Aug. 12, all states have shown divisions regarding the presidential pick method. Many have spoken against the age old custom of the president appointing his own successor and want to do it the democratic way, to which some of the president’s backers are quipping: what’s that?

There are two clear trends within PRI ranks known as the politicos and the technocrats. The politicos are part of the old populist guard of which the well recognized leader is presidential hopeful Manlio Fabio Beltrones, while the technocrats are the younger well-educated cadre of nerds graduated from Mexico’s “for the wealthy only” universities such as the Monterrey Tech and Mexico Tech Institute (ITAM). There are other such schools, but these two stand out. The technocrats, of course, are the ones waiting for Peña Nieto to make his decision.

The discussion of this has broken out in Mexican media over the past week and on July 23, Mexico City’s daily Reforma published the results of a poll in which it was very clear that 80 percent of the polled 1,200 registered voters want to see PRI out of power.

The results of the poll came as a bucket of ice water to PRI membership. Not only is the PRI generally unpopular but Peña Nieto himself got a low 20 rate approval which is an improvement over last January when our beloved president sunk to a 12 percent approval after he made the decision to hike gasoline prices.

In the poll, the one candidate of the politico group that is best recognized is Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong who — if elections were held now — would get only 15 percent of the total vote. In theory, he should be the man the president picks as the candidate to succeed him, but in practice, the waves are hitting hard and the PRI boat is indeed rocking in many a direction.

For instance, it would seem irrelevant to think that Mexico’s Central Bank (Banxico) president Agustín Carstens will leave next November to direct an international bank. This would be meaningless except most observers agree that it has brought further pressure on Peña Nieto’s decision to pick a PRI candidate.

Before picking a candidate for president, Peña Nieto has to appoint someone to replace Carstens and that is not easy either. The obvious pick would be current Treasury and Pubilc Finance Secretary José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, but many of the technocrats believe Meade Kuribreña would make the right choice for the presidential pick for candidate.

There is one technical problem with Meade Kuribreña. He’s not a registered PRI member and PRI statutes demand that the presidential candidate must have at least a ten-year militancy in PRI activities. Yet out of the entire Peña Nieto cabinet, Meade Kuribreña is the clean cut guy who is not identified with PRI corruption. Yet the president boasts the power to overrun the 10-year limitation and appoint him.

Well, that is one very visible option. Supposing Meade Kuribreña is appointed to replace Carstens to run Banxico, then that would leave the path open for Health Secretary José Narro, also with a clean corruption slate.

But way deep down it is clearly known that the man who Peña Nieto would love best to appoint as candidate is none other than current Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray.

But Videgaray is now Peña Nieto’s “man in the White House” (the one in Washington, not the controversial one at Las Lomas) and removing him now might throw off NAFTA negotiations which he is leading along with Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo.

Surely at the Aug. 12 national PRI convention, where Peña Nieto will be the keynoter, there might be a hint of which way things will move at the monolith party, but there is no question that the division within will be felt and Peña Nieto’s own unpopular standing will weigh heavily on the course to follow, not merely to stay in power six more years, but perhaps to stay alive in politics and wait for another opportunity to run the nation in the future.

Incidentally, in the Reforma poll, the winner with 30 percent of the polled votes was Andrés Manuel López Obrador who shall no doubt be the man to beat next year but also the man who beats PRI out power, perhaps once and for all.