The banner stretched across the stage carried the face of Delfina Gomez, a teacher-turned-politician with the leftist Morena party seeking the Mexico state governorship, and that of her party’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a charismatic early favorite for a third run for Mexico’s presidency.
One year before Mexicans pick their new top leader, the impending gubernatorial election in Mexico state is seen as a referendum on the government of Enrique Pena Nieto, who was governor here before becoming president five years ago as the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI.
A PRI win could stanch the bleeding after the party’s loss last year of four governorships it had always held. Mexico state has long been a key source of the PRI’s so-called “voto duro,” or hard vote — voters it can count on year after year, most of them from a lower socio-economic status, less educated and many older than 50, said Ivonne Acuna, a professor in Iberoamerican University’s social and political sciences department.
A Morena victory in the state would give Lopez Obrador “an immense advance in his quest for the presidency in 2018,” Acuna said. But the opposition vote will be shared among several candidates, which will make it difficult to overcome the PRI’s deeply rooted organization.
A poll released Wednesday by the newspaper El Financiero put PRI candidate Alfredo del Mazo ahead of Gomez by five percentage points in the gubernatorial contest. Juan Zepeda of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, which Lopez Obrador left to form Morena, was a distant third and Josefina Vazquez Mota of the National Action Party came in fourth. The poll surveyed 1,200 eligible Mexico state voters from May 20-23 and had a margin of error of three percentage points.
With more than 11 million voters, the state of Mexico has been governed by the PRI for 88 years and is the largest potential prize of three PRI-controlled states holding gubernatorial races June 4. The others are Coahuila and Nayarit.
“For the PRI, winning Mexico state is indispensable to be able to have something to do in 2018” during the presidential election, said researcher Marcela Bravo Ahuja at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Center for Political Studies. “That’s not to say that if it wins Mexico state it’s guaranteed, far from it, but if it doesn’t win Mexico state there won’t be anything to do.”