Last Saturday President Enrique Peña Nieto and a large crowd of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) members gathered at the party’s headquarters to commemorate the 88th anniversary of its founding on March 4, 1929.
The party was originally known as the National Revolutionary Party (PNR) and was founded by Mexican Revolution strongman General Plutarco Elías Calles after his superior chieftain and 1928 president-elect Álvaro Obregón was assassinated by a lone gunman.
At the time, the PNR was a peaceful influence on the many different revolutionary armed forces and General Elías Calles managed to at long last establish a system of peaceful transition after the specific group being in power for six years. Few, except those inside the PNR, few managed to comprehend this “democratic” passing on of power until recently.
The party changed its name again in 1940 to Party of the Mexican Revolution and finally in 1945 to PRI which is its name to this day.
During 71 years up until the year 2000, the PRI managed to sustain a one-party rule. Its success stemmed from the fact that upon founding its first version, General Elías Calles studied in depth the success of Stalin’s Russian Communist Party and even that of Germany’s National Socialism formed by Adolph Hitler. Of course it gave it a shape that included all of the forces of Mexican politics under a system that conservative critics called “the tree of good and evil,” as brilliant political ideologues were cast in the same group with corrupt politicians who just wanted a hefty share of the nation’s budget.
In the eyes of Nobel literature prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, the PRI became “the perfect dictatorship” because unlike in Russia or Germany, its structural nature does not allow for a one man dictatorship but it did allow for the Institutional Revolutionary Party to become a one man show. This even applied to General Elías Calles, who in 1935 was cast out of the country into exile to the USA after he tried to retain “The Maximum Chief of the Mexican Revolution” status over the President General Lázaro Cárdenas.
After President Cárdenas set the boat straight, a phenomenon called “the presidential succession” took place and the “succession” became a ritual every six years.
It became clear, however, that “the presidential succession” was won every time by PRI presidential candidates through rigging the elections as the “PRI-government” not only offered the winning candidate but through a long list of dirty tricks including election organization by the Interior Secretariat (Segob) which operated a nationwide gang of “electoral raccoons” or “mapaches” who developed a great expertise at stealing all elections to award PRI “a full car” of victories performing in absolute cynicism and corruption.
The PRI lost its first and second elections to conservative National Action Party (PAN) in 2000. When the PAN won with Vicente Fox as candidate, the voters — who finally could feel validated with the struggle against the very corrupt PRI electoral machinery after the duty to organize elections was given to an independent organization run and operated by regular citizens. It was called the National Electoral Institute, now renamed Federal Electoral Institute (IFE).
In 2000 voters were fed up with the PRI’s crooked way —besides stealing elections they stole money and sent the federal government into bankruptcy five times in 25 years. Reality had it then that people were not voting for PAN’s Vicente Fox but against PRI. They had to be evicted from power and this time citizens votes were counted and respected.
The PRI returned to power in 2012 with President Enrique Peña Nieto as its leader. This time there were no raccoons and Peña Nieto managed to garner 38 percent of the vote to beat his closest contender, left wing politico Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who got 32 percent of the vote.
This was the first time in its long history that the PRI won an election more or less cleanly and it was clear that Peña Nieto had billions of pesos to crank the wheels of the electoral machine. But he won cleanly even if he didn’t do it by a landslide.
With the celebration of its 88th anniversary, this “new PRI” is trying to hang on to power once again but at least all the political prophets in Mexico foresee that Peña Nieto “has lied” to the people and voters feel deceived by the President.
All was jubilation and alleged unity at the ceremony but as the political chips get lined up for the 2018 presidential election it is clear that once again voters may just cast once again a vote not for the best candidate, but against PRI to impede it from regaining its once dictatorial power.
All polls show that if presidential elections were held today PRI does not stand a chance regardless of its still awesome political nationwide organization.
Behind the self-confident smiles of most PRI members that they will retain the presidency next year, you can feel their bones rattle and shake in fear.
The “almighty steamroller” has its days counted particularly because they can’t touch the legality of democratic elections in Mexico.