According to preliminary results, Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has lost gubernatorial elections in several of its most important strongholds. The PRI fared much worse than expected in the June 5 elections held in 12 of Mexico's 31 states, apparently losing in at least seven. Six of those states — including Veracruz and Tamaulipas, which had been under PRI control for more than eight decades — were among the PRI's most important bastions of support. An alliance between the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) defeated the PRI in Veracruz.
The PRI's biggest losses took place in states that have endured vicious cartel turf battles and drug-related violence, particularly in the states abutting the Gulf of Mexico. There, PAN candidates built their campaigns around combating cartels and restoring security, much as the party's last president, Felipe Calderon, did. In 2012, President Enrique Pena Nieto won his office by promising to create enough economic growth to restore stability to the nation. But Mexico's economy is projected to grow only slightly more than 2 percent this year, and allegations of mismanagement, corruption and abuse have plagued Pena Nieto's administration. The PRI's recent losses reflect Mexican voters' waning confidence in the president and ruling party's ability to fight corruption and to reinstate security.
In fact, despite the PAN and PRD's performance in the June 5 elections, Mexican voters may be growing wary of the entire political establishment, regardless of party. It will be important to watch the other gubernatorial votes that will occur before the 2018 presidential election to see whether independent or anti-establishment candidates are gaining ground. That said, even in Mexico's increasingly fragmented domestic political scene, the PRI, PAN and PRD — the main parties that historically hold the most sway — will likely garner the majority of the vote in 2018. To secure the presidency, these parties just need to eke out a plurality, and they are clearly still capable of doing so. And even if an outsider reaches the presidency, the legislature will probably be divided, limiting the president's ability to reverse existing legislative and constitutional reforms.