This is a guest post from The Cohen Group
Alfredo del Mazo of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (P.R.I.) is the presumptive winner of Sunday’s
election for governor of the State of Mexico, an important battleground state that will set the stage for the July
2018 Mexican presidential contest. The narrow win for the P.R.I. on President Enrique Peña Nieto’s home state
highlights the current weakness of the ruling party’s political machine, which won the state in 2011 with 60
percent of the vote. It also rescaled the overall popularity of populist presidential candidate Andres Manuel
Lopez Obrador (AMLO) who was able to pick the relatively unknown Delfina Gomez Alvarez as the candidate
for his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) and almost win one of Mexico’s most coveted and
powerful elected offices. Going forward, how AMLO manages his party’s challenge of the election results
could impact his presidential ambitions.
- Vote count as of Monday night, with 97.8 percent of votes tallied:
- 33.72% – Alfredo del Mazo Maza, Institutional Revolutionary Party (P.R.I.)
- 30.82% – Delfina Gomez Alvarez, National Regeneration Movement (MORENA)
- 17.79% – Juan Manuel Zepeda Hernandez, Party of the Democratic Revolution (P.R.D.)
- 11.29% – Josefina Vazquez Mota, National Action Party (P.A.N.)
- 1.080% – Oscar Gonzalez Yanez, Worker’s Party (P.T.)
- Two major parties are challenging the results, but they are unlikely to change the election outcome. Less than 3 percent separate del Mazo from runner-up Gomez, and both MORENA and the PAN have alleged fraud and signaled intent to challenge the elections results when the final tally is confirmed on June 7. While Mexico’s Electoral Tribunal will likely confirm some cases of fraud, it will consider insufficient in determining the outcome of the election.
- AMLO’s reaction could help or hurt his standing as presidential candidate. By challenging the results through the courts, he would signal a new, more pragmatic approach for a candidate with a history of mobilizing massive protests, as he did following his loss in the 2006 and 2012 presidential elections. Such an institutional approach would seem presidential and attract the middle class voters he needs to win the presidency. Taking to the streets, however, could galvanize the anyone-but-AMLO coalition.
- July 2018 is more than a year away and anything can happen. The breakdown of Mexico’s traditional parties, particularly the PAN, are apparent and lend added uncertainty to the Mexican political environment. Not all parties picked their presidential candidates, the left is divided as a result of the break between AMLO and the PRD, and some analysts believe AMLO’s base alone cannot deliver the presidency. Further, the announcement a couple of weeks ago suggesting a PAN-PRD alliance, based solely on the desire to win, sets the ground going into the presidential election.
- Adding to the political dynamic is the economic uncertainty regarding the renegotiation of NAFTA expected to begin in August. To ensure a positive outcome for U.S. and economic business interests, both countries will need to avoid becoming electoral issues going into the Mexican presidential elections and the subsequent U.S. mid-term congressional elections.
- While concerns of an AMLO presidency are overstated, his election would signal a regression in the U.S.-Mexico relationship. He also counts the PEMEX Union among his base of support, which opposed reform of the country’s energy market.