The old and new PRI

We already saw electoral dirty tricks. Let's see if there is also a negotiating spirit

Enrique Peña Nieto’s apparent victory in the presidential election put the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) back in power, although under very different circumstances than the 71 years of past governments. If he wants to be efficient in the next six years, Peña Nieto will have to get used to negotiating with Congress.

Peña Nieto has repeated time and again that he refuses to return to the PRI’s authoritarian, anti-democratic past. However, some habits are hard to break, including buying votes.

Giving out tens of thousands of gift cards from Soriana stores in return for voting for the PRI candidate contradicts the new image the party wants to project. But even worse is the explanation that Mexico State Governor Eruviel Ávila Villegas gave. He said he gave out 170,000 gift cards as part of a school program, and that the rush to redeem them is not connected to the election but that the beneficiaries “made last-minute purchases” at the end of the school cycle.

Peña Nieto won’t have that freedom for campaign tricks as president, since he does not have absolute majorities in Congress.

In order to pass energy, tax and labor reforms, the president will need support from the opposition-either from the PRD, the party in second place, whose ideas oppose the intentions of the PRI candidate, or from the PAN, whose members resent the fact that the PRI group blocked similar reforms that President Calderón proposed.

Finally, it is unfortunate that another presidential election in Mexico has been marred by irregularities. The recount of more than half of the ballots will help with transparency, although it will be very hard to reverse the trend favoring Peña Nieto. The price of this mess is a deep, reasonable voter distrust of the “new PRI,” which won’t disappear just based on the candidate’s words.

In short, a Peña Nieto presidency could show two faces of the PRI. We already saw a tricky old party that wins elections at all costs; let’s see if a more flexible version emerges, one that is open to dialogue in Congress and can govern for all Mexicans.