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Latin America

PRI expected to win mid-term race despite Mexicans’ discontent

Millions go to the polls on Sunday to elect governors and the entire Chamber of Deputies Opposition campaigns have been unable to demonstrate President Peña Nieto’s failures

Luis Pablo Beauregard
Members of the CNTE teachers’ union burn a photograph of Peña Nieto during a protest.
Members of the CNTE teachers’ union burn a photograph of Peña Nieto during a protest.REUTERS

When campaigning for Mexico’s regional and congressional races officially kicked off in March, the leader of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was buoyant.

“We are going to win everywhere,” said César Camacho, a former governor of Mexico state, recalling the days when the PRI was the dominant political force and swept up in races across the country.

But not everyone in the PRI is as optimistic as Camacho. “We are going to lose in two states in this country,” predicted Senate leader Emilio Gamboa late last month, leaving the question of where hanging in the air.

Polls show that the mid-term race will not result in punishment votes for President Enrique Peña Nieto

On Sunday, voters go to polls to elect 1,996 leaders, including mayors, regional leaders, nine governors and all 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies.

But there is reason for optimism inside the PRI: polls have shown that these mid-term elections will not result in punishment votes for President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose approval ratings have dropped to new lows over the past few months.

Peña Nieto’s government has been plagued by a series of ongoing public corruption scandals, including one connecting his wife, first lady Angélica Rivera, and several top officials, to a questionable property deal.

The kidnapping and massacre of 43 teaching students last September in the town of Iguala, Guerrero state, has also haunted the administration, which is being blamed by many, including the families of the victims, for carrying out a shoddy investigation into the deaths.

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Mexicans have also complained about the government’s handling of the ongoing violence across the country, human rights, and a poor-performing economy.

Yet the PRI is still predicted to give a strong showing in the majority of Sunday’s races.

“The PRI has been able to emerge as the biggest force because the campaigns carried out by the opposition were not effective enough to convince angry voters to cast a punishment vote,” said Guillermo Valdés, of the GEA-ISA polling firm.

According to the pollster’s latest survey, the PRI will win 35 percent of the seats in Congress. Other surveys place the ruling party winning an average of 32 percent.

Along with the votes picked up by the PRI’s allies – the Green Party has formed an alliance with the PRI in 250 of the 300 districts that will hold races – the governing party would thus control Congress with a simple majority (251 seats). Currently, the PRI has only a 48-percent control in the lower chamber.

“We are counting on the Greens to pick up votes where we won’t,” said PRI political strategist Arturo Huicochea.

The expected victory of the so-called tricolor party can be attributed to two reasons. First, the two main opposition forces – the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) – have been dealing with internal crises concerning their leaderships and philosophies. They have been unable to capitalize on the controversies and scandals that have plagued Peña Nieto.

According to one survey, the PRI will win 35 percent of the seats in Congress

Another key factor is that the opposition lost its momentum in the other 16 states where voters will not elect governors, but will still cast ballots for national deputies.

“Support for the PAN has dropped in places that will not hold local elections so they did not organize effective campaigns,” explained Valdés.

On the other hand, the PRI, which reportedly has the support of 7.5 million voters, will try to flex its muscle by trying to get 11 million people out to vote in its favor.

“The party that wins on Sunday will garner between 13 million and 14 million votes. Only the PRI or PAN are able to do that,” said PRI strategist Huicochea.

However, holding a majority in Congress does not guarantee that the government will be able to push through its legislative agenda with ease over the next three years.

Holding a majority in Congress will not guarantee that Peña Nieto will be able to easily pass legislation

Although the bulk of Peña Nieto’s far-reaching reforms were passed during the first three years of his term in office, the president will face fierce opposition in the lower chamber.

MORENA, the new party created by former PRD presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, will have members serving as deputies and could replace the PRD as a major leftist force.

At the same time the PAN, which agreed to support Peña Nieto’s reforms at the beginning of his term in December 2012 under the Pact for Mexico, will distance itself from the PRI as the conservative party begins to prepare for the 2018 presidential elections.

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