MEXICO: 2018 Presidential Elections: The State of the Race

It would be a mistake to underestimate an old political machine that has managed to govern the country for more than 70 years. Photo (c) Pinos 2018It would be a mistake to underestimate an old political machine that has managed to govern the country for more than 70 years. Photo (c) Pinos 2018

Less than one year from the 2018 election, electoral polls have pointed out that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a former Mayor of Mexico City, two-time Presidential candidate and current leader of leftwing party National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), is the clear front-runner. But is his triumph a foregone conclusion?

Although several politicians have expressed an interest in contending for the Presidency, Mr. Lopez is the only major candidate whose name is certain to appear on the ballot.

Other rivals, including parties such as the PAN, the PRD and the PRI, are yet to define who will face Lopez in 2018.

Underestimation Prohibited

Photo (c) Forbes Mexico 2015

Former PAN First Lady, Margarita Zavala is one among numerous offering a strategic alternative to PRI rule. Photo (c) Forbes Mexico 2015

The right-wing PAN party, which ruled the country from 2000 to 2012, has three main candidates: Margarita Zavala, former legislator and wife of ex-President Felipe Calderon; Ricardo Anaya, current party leader; and Rafael Moreno Valle, former Governor of Puebla.

As for the center-left PRD party, its main contender appears to be Miguel Angel Mancera, the current Mayor of Mexico City.

However, the key element in the race is the party that currently holds the Executive Power, the PRI. After five years of a lackluster government, with meagre economic growth, an abundance of corruption scandals and ongoing violence throughout the country, it would seem that whoever the party chooses would be destined to fail. Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to underestimate an old political machine that has managed to govern the country for more than 70 years.

Game of Los Pinos Throne

Photo (c) El Universal 2016

Meade could be supported by a large sector of the population. Photo (c) El Universal 2016

In past elections, the PRI only allowed potential Presidential candidates that had been members of the party for at least 10 years. After removing that requirement in its latest National Assembly, Jose Antonio Meade (current Secretary of Finance who is currently not formally affiliated to any political organization) emerged as one of the party’s favorites to contend for the Presidency.

The particular trait that would make Meade a viable option is his image as an outsider candidate, albeit he has been a high-profile politician during two different administrations.

Due to the fact that Mexico does not have two-round Presidential elections, whoever wins in 2018 will most likely do so with around 30% of the votes. Therefore, the strategy to divide the frontrunner or form alliances with other political factions seems to be a sensible course of action.

Past vs. Present = Future

Photo (c) Lopez Obrador 2012

Lopez Obrador is the clear front-runner, but by no means uncontested. Photo (c) Lopez Obrador 2012

Even though the race for the Presidency has been portrayed as a struggle between Lopez Obrador and the three other main political parties, Meade could be supported by a large sector of the population that continues to see the leader of MORENA as a risky option.

The coming weeks will continue to define each party’s future candidates for 2018.

The PRI will fight to maintain power with all the structural capability of an organization that, although weakened due to the low approval ratings of current President Enrique Peña Nieto, may still prove political pundits wrong by winning the Presidency in July next year.