Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s congressional allies overcame disenchantment with his government to boost their majority in the lower house, thanks to a controversial Green Party and a fractured opposition.
Ten days after June 7 midterm elections, near-final estimates have emerged showing the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the Greens (Partido Verde) and the New Alliance (Nueva Alianza) getting 260 out of 500 seats, up from 251 today.
The absolute majority will allow the centrist PRI and its allies to pass legislation without compromising with the conservative and leftist opposition, even as Pena Nieto’s popularity has fallen to around 40 percent.
“It’s a partial victory” for Pena Nieto, said Hector Zamitiz Gamboa, political science professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
“Pragmatically, it’s a victory because he retains the majority with these allies. But in reality it’s half a victory,” he said. “The president’s image has deteriorated in the past year.”
Pena Nieto’s popularity has fallen since last year’s protests over his handling of the presumed massacre of 43 students by a police-backed drug gang and public outrage over his wife’s purchase of a mansion from a government contractor.
Radical teachers angry at his education reform also tried to disrupt the June 7 elections with violent protests in the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.
The PRI will actually lose 11 seats, dropping from 214 to 203, according to official figures that were posted on Twitter by National Electoral Institute councilor Arturo Sanchez but must be validated by a court in the coming weeks.
Pena Nieto’s alliance got a boost from the Greens, who nearly doubled their seats to 47 despite $30 million in fines for violating campaign rules.
Despite its name, the Green Party supports fracking to drill for gas — a method opposed by environmentalists — and was fined for using non-recyclable paper for campaign pamphlets.
Together, the three pro-government parties garnered around 40 percent of the vote, with the PRI winning the most with 29.2 percent.
– ‘Soap box for 2018 vote’ –
For political expert Luis Carlos Ugalde, the PRI benefited from the inability of opposition parties to lure disillusioned voters, who turned to new parties and independents.
“It’s not a triumph for the PRI. It’s a failure of the opposition parties,” Ugalde, a former electoral institute president, told AFP.
While the conservative National Action Party (PAN) remained the second political force, it will get 108 seats in the next chamber of deputies compared to 113 today.
Mired by internal divisions, the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) will get 56 deputies compared to 99 now.
The PRD’s defeat was attributed to the rise of the nascent Morena party of former PRD member and two-time leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, which got 35 seats in its first election.
Ugalde expects a radicalization of the opposition over the next three years ahead of the 2018 presidential elections.
“The Congress will turn into a political soap box,” he said. “The parties will seize on the forum in the chamber of deputies to take position in view of the 2018 elections.”
PAN member and former first lady Margarita Zavala, who is the wife of ex-president Felipe Calderon, and Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera already announced their candidacies this week. Lopez Obrador also plans to run.
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