MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Morena party of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador finally chose a leader Friday after two failed, acrimonious attempts.
A poll of party members gave a comfortable margin of victory to congressional leader Mario Delgado, a centrist seen as more obedient to the president.
The results of an earlier poll that showed a tie had been hotly disputed by Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, an 87-year-old political warhorse who has been critical at times of López Obrador.
Later Friday, Muñoz Ledo said the polls, and previous ones, were “done illegally,” but did not say specifically whether he would accept the verdict.
The inter-party dispute had been a thorn in the side of López Obrador, who needs to protect his party’s tenuous grip on congress in 2021 mid-term elections.
López Obrador cobbled together the National Regeneration Movement — known to all in Mexico as Morena — from breakaway members from other parties in 2014. It’s members include leftists and independents and centrists. The young party lacks formal organization in many of Mexico’s 32 states, and holds only seven governorships.
Beyond that is the question of whether Morena, in its present form, will outlast the presidency of its creator, who is constitutionally barred from reelection.
The only good news for Morena is that the two main opposition parties — the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and the conservative National Action Party, are arguably in worse shape.
The PRI ruled Mexico uninterrupted from from 1929 to 2000, and still has the most governorships, 11. But its brief return to the presidency in 2012-2018 was so marked by debilitating corruption scandals that the PRI now seems cowed and rudderless.
López Obrador has proved himself a master at the kind of politics — charismatic leadership, ardent nationalism and governmental handout programs — the PRI once specialized in.
National Action, a conservative party that offers the clearest alternative to López Obrador, is still distrusted by many due to two lackluster terms in the presidency from 2000 to 2012. Some party factions have been drawn into counterproductive demonstrations of rage against the president.
Delgado, 58, is seen as a skilled behind-the-scenes political operator and ally of one of López Obrador’s potential successors, Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard.
Muñoz Ledo has jumped from one party to another throughout a career that began as a student leader in the mid-1950s and established him in Mexican history as the first opposition party leader of Congress in 1997. He has been willing to criticize López Obrador’s heavy-handed approach to catching and deporting Central American migrants who try to cross Mexico to reach the United States.