The knives are out for President Enrique Peña Nieto and his cabinet following the ruling party’s crushing defeat in Sunday’s elections.
A group made up of hundreds of Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) members headed by former Oaxaca governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz yesterday published an open letter blaming the president for the loss that will see the party reduced to a weakened third force in Mexican politics.
“President Peña and the top-level officials in his government, mainly those who have been in charge of combating insecurity and poverty and those who committed acts of corruption or should have been dedicated to eradicating it, are largely responsible for the electoral result,” the letter said.
Entitled National Expression for the Refoundation of the PRI, the letter also called on Peña Nieto and his cabinet to not interfere in the rebuilding of the party.
“Instead ensure the orderly handover of government and the dependencies and entities you are responsible for,” it said.
The letter, signed by members of a group known as Democracia Interna (Internal Democracy), charged that the triumph of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the presidential election is the result of a long line of errors related to the management of the party.
Among those cited were the appointment of Enrique Ochoa Reza as national PRI president and allowing candidates outside the party’s machinery to run as candidates for elected office.
Even the party’s presidential candidate, José Antonio Meade, has never been an official member of the PRI.
While Meade served in Peña Nieto’s cabinet in the finance, social development and foreign affairs portfolios, he also served as a cabinet secretary for the National Action Party (PAN) in the previous federal administration.
The upper echelons of the party hierarchy hoped that Meade could appeal to voters across party lines and avoid the stigma of being a card-carrying PRI member, but his candidacy failed to gain any real traction in the electorate and he only won 17% support at the ballot box.
In addition to having its numbers in both houses of federal Congress severely depleted, the PRI failed to win any of the nine governorships up for grabs and lost municipal contests in areas of the country where it has long been the dominant political force, such as Peña Nieto’s birthplace of Atlacomulco.
“Peña and his cabinet are the main culprits for this debacle as they are responsible for opening the party to external candidates and closing spaces to the [party] membership; of imposing decisions and candidates at will, of bringing about changes to party documents that infringed upon democratic possibilities,” the letter said.
The party members also charged that the presidential campaign was flawed because it allocated greater resources to attacking second-place candidate Ricardo Anaya than it did to directly focusing on winning support from the electorate.
Democracia Interna called for the immediate resignation of all members of the PRI’s National Executive Committee and for the party to be rebuilt with a new leadership that is elected by the party’s membership.
Never in the history of the party has the arrogance of an “inept leadership” so greatly offended the ideology of the PRI, the party faithful charged.
“We mustn’t allow a group, as influential as it is at this moment, to hijack [the party] and use it, as has happened, to satisfy personal interests,” the letter said.
“Let’s return the party to its true masters, its members.”