No matter if they roll the dice, shuffle the cards or rearrange internal regulations, all moves at the on-going Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) convention aim at coming up with the right game to defeat National Regeneration Movement (Morena) presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, AMLO for short.
Even before the convention concludes Saturday with a keynote address by President and PRI leader Enrique Peña Nieto, it is clear that there are two results at the convention which clearly indicate for an opening.
One is the end of the “seat grasshoppers,” namely those individuals who are elected on a “plurinominal,” basis which is that each party has so many seats either at the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.
The second one is the elimination of the “lock” to potential candidates PRI imposed through a 10-year minimum militancy to presidential candidates.
These two limitations — yet to be fully approved by vote on the Saturday general assembly — have clear addressees. The grasshopper elimination clause is to prevent people like the president’s main political coordinator César Camacho Quiroz to move freely from one chamber to the next. Plurinominally elected people don’t have to run for the seat.
Camacho Quiroz went from being PRI president to becoming senator and then the current seat he holds as deputy without running for the position.
In the case of Deputy Camacho Quiroz, it can be said that he’s served his boss Peña Nieto well, but for the most part plurinominal appointed deputies are, as PRI militant Mario Machuca put it during the discussion of preventing grass hopping, “like bonsai trees, short in terms of ideas. They are very expensive and they only serve as ornaments.”
The “unlocking” of the 10-year militancy clause is aimed at giving the president more choices of who to pick to run for president as PRI candidate when the right moment comes, namely sometime towards the end of the year. The name everyone is uttering now is that of Treasury and Finance Secretary José Antonio Meade Kuribreña who has served first in the position he is now, then as Foreign Relations secretary, then as Social Development secretary and now the president moved him back to the Treasury and Finance Secretariat.
The deep concern within PRI is that most of its potential candidates are by now — as the popular saying goes — burnt-out firecrackers or fired bullet casings who have been either over-exposed or do not meet the full-fledged incarnation to be presidential candidate.
The big problem PRI is confronting is that even now with the gates of heaven open to “sympathizing citizens” to become candidates, the legacy Enrique Peña Nieto leaves behind is not a good one. No matter what poll you check, in a potential scenario posed by pollsters asking “who would you vote for if the presidential election is held now?,” AMLO gets over 30 percent of the vote, 20 to the National Action Party (PAN) and PRI comes in third with no more than 18 percent for its best cards.
In the case of Meade Kuribreña, those pumping him up in the press like the Excelsior publishing and television company also admit that he may be the candidate Peña Nieto selects, but it will be a different story at election time next June 3. Meade, a good man for many reasons, does not match up to other competitors, at least in the current polls.
Another heavy burden PRI militants have to bear with is the well-earned fame of corruption many PRI members have. They can’t simply shove aside the fact that there are several PRI former governors on trial in jail with no right to bail and in the eyes of voter they are guiltier than sin. This is not dirty laundry you can wash with soap alone.
Plus no matter what the PRI offers now, their problem is credibility. Their also well-earned fame of being demagogues weighs heavily in the upcoming elections.
Finally, the PRI’s history is burdensome. Voters see the party as a hole, as a survivor of the Jurassic age, PRInosaurius Rex, some call it, which with its neoliberal economic policies have sunk and kept 55 percent of the Mexican population in poverty while PRI members live high on the hog.
But regardless, for sympathizers PRI may be an almost extinct dinosaur but the fact of the matter is that it is alive and kicking. Are conventions like the current one the last gasp of the PRInosaur?
Looking at it from a pragmatic view, PRI is now on the canvass and the 10-second knockout count applied to KOed boxers is now ticking. But, can the man on the canvass get back in the fight?
Expectations are that it is unlikely it will happen, but pragmatically speaking, the PRInosaur isn’t dead, not just yet!