Mexico rulers tipped to win historic state election as presidency race looms

  • World
  • Monday, 29 May 2023

A banner of Delfina Gomez, candidate for Governor for the state of Mexico for the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) Party is pictured in Nezahualcoyotl, state of Mexico, Mexico May 26, 2023. REUTERS/Raquel Cunha

LOS REYES ACAQUILPAN, Mexico (Reuters) - Mexico's ruling party next month looks likely to seize one of the last major opposition strongholds in a gubernatorial election that could also help determine its candidate to succeed leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador next year.

On June 4, voters must choose between two women for a new governor in the State of Mexico, a region encompassing much of Mexico City's urban sprawl, a major driver of the economy and home to nearly one in seven of the country's population.

Lopez Obrador's National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) is easily the most popular party nationwide, bolstered by his strong personal approval ratings, which he has buttressed with higher welfare spending and daily excoriations of adversaries he casts as Mexico's corrupt political and business elites.

MORENA did, however, suffer surprise 2021 mid-term election losses in the capital and the State of Mexico, where many voters have bristled at the president's sniping against the middle class. That has given a fragmented opposition a glimmer of hope.

Yet having governed the state for nearly a century, trust in the once-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has steadily eroded, freighted by scandals during a long rule of Mexico that spanned most of the past nine decades. Lopez Obrador routed the PRI in 2018 when he won the presidency.

"We've given the PRI many chances, but they're still the same old crooks," said Alan Lira, a 28-year-old food courier in Los Reyes Acaquilpan, a PRI-run town in the state on Mexico City's eastern flank. "Why don't we give MORENA a chance?"

MORENA's candidate Delfina Gomez, 60, a loyal ally of the president who was runner-up in the last state election in 2017, has pitched her bid as a vote for change even though the Lopez Obrador administration is now well into its fifth year.

Her campaign did not reply to requests for an interview.

Opinion polls make Gomez clear favorite to beat her 39-year-old rival, Alejandra del Moral, a PRI former congresswoman and state official who is running for a coalition of parties comprising most of the national political opposition.

In Los Reyes, a town of concrete homes that converge on a bustling center where motorcycle rickshaws weave through market stalls, voters quickly cite security as a problem. Signs on buildings near the town hall warn thieves they will be lynched.

Voters also fret about economic growth, bemoaning inflation.

Erika Flores, a 50-year-old nurse who voted for Lopez Obrador in 2018, said she now felt disillusioned. Though he had helped the neediest, workers like her had lost out, she argued.

"The PRI looks out more for people who work," she said.

PRI contender del Moral says her coalition will strive for consensus instead of what she called a "polarizing populism" under Lopez Obrador dividing Mexico into "rich and poor".

"We've decided to go for the path of reconciliation," she told Reuters, saying her party was reconnecting with voters door to door, and owed people an apology for losing its way.

Gubernatorial elections also take place in the northern state of Coahuila on June 4, with the PRI expected to retain power after splits inside MORENA produced rival candidacies.


It is the first time the State of Mexico election will be a women-only contest. A few Los Reyes voters saw it as an augury for the presidency in 2024, when Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum is favored by many to succeed Lopez Obrador.

Sheinbaum has moved lock-step with Lopez Obrador politically, and some analysts regard the gubernatorial bid of Gomez, a former school teacher who is also closely aligned with the president, as a litmus test for the mayor's hopes.

"If Delfina loses, Claudia loses," said Fernando Belaunzaran, an opposition politician and former colleague of Sheinbaum in the Party of the Democratic Revolution, which Lopez Obrador once fronted before he founded MORENA.

Belaunzaran noted Sheinbaum, who has backed the president's contentious economic agenda and his attacks on the judiciary and electoral authorities, is widely seen as Lopez Obrador's first choice to replace him. He denies this.

Her main rival is Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, viewed by business leaders and diplomats as more moderate. He has raised concerns about the impartiality of MORENA's internal contest.

If Gomez loses, it could strengthen the case for a candidate perceived to have broader appeal, such as Ebrard, Belaunzaran said. MORENA will pick its candidate later this year.

Gomez has vowed to put security first in the State of Mexico, pledging to clean up the police and improve their resources. Nationally, murders have fallen somewhat from their 2019-2020 peaks, but are down less in the state.

She has also urged supporters to be alert for voter fraud, describing her opponents as "crafty", raising the prospect of a post-electoral dispute if MORENA is unexpectedly defeated.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Next In World

Analysis-Spain's socialists roll dice on Catalan amnesty in bid for power
Iran protesters mark anniversary of bloody crackdown in southeast
Armed forces, police to jointly combat gang violence in Sweden: PM
Griffon vultures released in Cyprus to boost local population
Roundup: Electric vehicles see growing demand in Laos amid fluctuating cost of fuel
Half of food products in Spain become more expensive despite price caps: consumer group
World champs Qin, Xu make hat-tricks, Zhang sweeps 6 golds in Hangzhou Asiad swimming
Namibia to increase fuel prices in October
China spearheads Asiad athletics opening day with 4 golds
Kosovo Serb politician admits role in gun battle that killed four

Others Also Read