President’s party wants to clean up in Mexico state races

MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexico’s ruling Morena party looks set to win at least four of its six state governor races on Sunday on the back of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, his popular, charismatic leader, and the absence of a credible opposition, analysts say.

Ironically, on the brink of greatest power, Morena may also be about to enter the stage of greatest vulnerability: the fledgling side must take control of a stubbornly cartels-dominated border state like Tamaulipas and sow a divisive internal competition to see who will replace López Obrador upon his departure in 2024.

With Morena’s dominance a seemingly foregone conclusion – the opposition will likely be left with only half a dozen of Mexico’s 32 states – there has been a stampede by politicians of all levels to join or join the party. the party to survive politically, a stampede that threatens to erode its already weak internal cohesion and ideology.

Analysts say Morena could be on track to become a ubiquitous “government party” like the old Institutional Revolutionary Party, the PRI, which dominated Mexican politics for 70 years from 1929 to 2000, but without its former reputation. PRI for iron internal discipline.

In short, Morena is now a broad tent made of anyone who allows López Obrador – a political pragmatist who sometimes courts opposition politicians with ambassadors.

It marks a new phase in Mexican politics.

“The battle will not be with the opposition, but within Morena,” said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an associate professor at George Mason University. “The movement will be clouded by people joining who have little to do with the (political) project.”

Those contradictions can be seen in Tamaulipas, which borders Texas, where most ex-governors of the past 20 years have gone to prison for corruption or ties to the drug cartels that dominate the state.

Morena’s candidate for governor in Tamaulipas is a mild-mannered cardiologist, Américo Villarreal, a former PRI member and the son of a beloved former PRI governor who was also a friend of López Obrador. The younger Villarreal has offered little in the way of policies to tackle gangs like the Northeast cartel, which has grown so brutal that it attacked the US consulate in the border town of Nuevo Laredo earlier this year.

While López Obrador has disappointed the US government by avoiding confrontation with drug cartels or arresting their leaders, he has worked closely with the Americans by detaining migrants trying to reach the US border.

Correa-Cabrera expects Villarreal to continue these trends, in what she says could be seen as a “narco-peace” policy. Still, she noted that drug violence tends to increase after local elections, in part because deals with outgoing politicians end and new terms need to be negotiated.

“It will get a little out of hand for him,” Correa-Cabrera said. “The violence will get worse, it will be a difficult start for him, I don’t know how difficult.”

Ivonne Acuña Murillo, professor of political science at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, says López Obrador’s policies — such as doubling the minimum wage in border areas like Tamaulipas and constantly visiting provincial towns — rather than affect the status of local candidates, are key to understanding Morena’s potential gubernatorial sweep.

“His job of being there constantly, not ignoring any place, constantly visiting these places every weekend to be close to the people, that’s what nourishes him and gives him strength,” said Acuña Murillo.

“It’s a movement built by him that follows him, and what we know as López Obrador doesn’t necessarily coincide with what Morena is, his base of support and structure, so that’s a big challenge,” she noted. “I think it’s a party that could be a bit fragile without this great leader.”

Morena was founded in 2012 by López Obrador and when he retires, the party is likely to become a free-spirited political division. By law, López Obrador is limited to one term.

Several top figures in his administration have already started a sharp dispute to win Morena’s presidential nomination in the 2024 race.

Morena also looks set to win the election in Quintana Roo, home to resorts like Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen. While the state’s main tourism industry has recovered relatively quickly from the coronavirus pandemic, it faces huge challenges from drug violence and the arrival of stinky sargassum seaweed on its beaches.

López Obrador has spent a lot of money in Quintana Roo to build his Maya Train tourism project, which will link colonial towns, beach resorts and Maya archaeological sites, though it has sparked anger among environmentalists when workers cut a swath through the jungle without explanation. about the environmental impact.

“I think Morena will definitely win, and I hope that means we’ll get more federal support for tourism as a national priority and solve the problems we’re facing,” said Sergio Leon, the former head of the state employers’ federation.

Rafael Barajas, a citizen activist in Tulum, replied that “It is clear that Morena is going to win, because the political group of (Mayor of Tulum) Marciano Dzul has reached an agreement to let the federal government do what it wants so that the Maya train continue without protest.”

Opposition parties still exist, but they have been forced into uneasy anti-López Obrador alliances.

In the two states that Morena supports – Aguascalientes and Durango – the candidates are fighting jointly for the PRI and the conservative National Action Party.

Morena is also likely to occupy the states of Oaxaca and Hidalgo, whose current PRI governors are oddly close to López Obrador. Again, the challenge for Morena comes less from the outside than from the inside.

“In some states, like Hidalgo, there are governors who, although they are PRI members, are more on the Morena side,” Acuña Murillo said. “It seems that this political culture lives of a strong president, and the PRI logic is to be on the winning side,”

“If Morena falls, it will be for internal reasons,” she said, “because there is no opposition to compete with it.”

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