A Surprising Win In Mexico
For much of 20th century -- to be precise 71 years from 1929 to 2000, a single party held on to power in Mexico using all illegal means such as vote-buying, intimidation and electoral fraud. Now, twelve years later, the PRI or Institutional Revolutionary Party is once again in power led by its charismatic leader Enrique Pena Nieto.
Why did voters send a party that was once dubbed "the perfect dictatorship" back to power? Lets take a look.
The PRI's reign
The PRI party was founded in 1929 following an unstable period in Mexican history. While Mexico has had many revolutions, the largest uprising was from 1910-1920 against the dictatorial government of President Porfirio Diaz. Under his rule, the working class and farmers of Mexico had been subjected to harsh working conditions, low pay and their lands forcibly taken away.
For a decade after Diaz's fall in 1911, there was a class struggle and civil unrest in Mexico as rival politicians and warlords fought each other. Revolutionaries such as Ernesto Zapata and Pancho Villa -- Robin Hood-like men who supported the peasants and fought the wealthy landowners, became all too powerful. When the revolution ended, Mexico's progress had been set back by decades.
The PRI's initial reign after it came into power in 1929 started off positively, with a period of economic growth and stability. But the party soon became increasingly out of touch as corruption spread through its ranks. The PRI was accused of being in cahoots with drug traders, and it held on to power by "hook or crook" for seven decades, until it was ousted in 2000.
Why a change of heart?
Mexico's biggest problem today is rising violence that threatens the safety of its citizens, and a government that is unable to control the drug gangs. Despite a military-led effort to curb drug violence by Mexican President Felipe Calderon (and backed by U.S government), the situation has only worsened. The new President has pledged to make security for ordinary citizens his first priority. Corruption, a poor economy, and rising unemployment have all but disillusioned ordinary Mexicans. The PRI offers hope for change -- one that Mexicans are clinging to.
Can Pena Nieto deliver?
There are many who claim that the PRI never really gave up power and while it lost the Presidency, it still had a strong hold in the small towns and cities across Mexico. The new President has strong ties to Televisa, a powerful broadcasting company that has given him more air time on its TV channels compared to the other candidates.
Nieto points out that the PRI is a different party today, led by a new generation. As governor, he has built his reputation by delivering on promises of improving his state's infrastructure. His popularity rating is quite high for another reason as well -- he is married to a famous daytime TV actress!
Can the new President shed the old image of PRI and take the country forward? Only time will tell.