The Parties

Mexico has three main political parties, and several important smaller ones that often form alliances with the larger parties:

  • Partido de Acción Nacional/National Action Party (PAN): A center-right party, the PAN was founded in 1939 and was long considered the “loyal opposition” to Mexico’s long-ruling PRI. Though it was tolerated along with other opposition parties throughout the PRI’s 71 years in power, the PAN was never permitted to win a significant election until its first gubernatorial win in 1989. The PAN became the first party to defeat the PRI and break its strangle-hold on  the presidency  in 2000 with Vicente Fox as their candidate.  Fox, a relative party outsider with a successful career as CEO of Coca-Cola,  The PAN won again in a tight election in 2006 with the current President Felipe Calderón. Presently, the PAN holds eight state governorships and 28.2 percent of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies (147 out of 500) and 39.1 percent of the Senate (50 of the 128 seats). See more…
  • Partido de la Revolución Institucional/Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI): Formed after the devastating Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) and the period of political instability that followed, the PRI was formed in an effort to prevent further violence among rival political groups.  The stability that ensued was so successful that the party dominated at all levels of government until 2000. The PRI held all state governorships until 1989, a majority in both congressional chambers until 1997, and the presidency until 2000. Organized around broad “sectors” of society, the PRI stayed in power and kept its incorporated groups in the coalition through a combination of party discipline and government largesse, and supplemented with a combination of electoral manipulation, intimidation and outright fraud, as well as ideological swings intended to reflect broader political dynamics in the country. Historically, the party has been considered nationalist, with members from the socialist left to a business elite making up its ranks. After two tough presidential elections (2000 and 2006), in which the PRI lost its grip on the presidency, the party has undergone a process of soul-searching and reforms in an attempt to break with its past and project an image of competent democratic leadership.  The party swept the 2009 congressional elections and now represent the largest faction in the Chamber of Deputies with 48.0 percent (240 seats) and the second largest in the Senate with 27.8 percent (33 seats). They also now have 19 state governorships, and the prospects for the 2012 presidential race seem much more promising than they did in the 2006 election. See more…
  • Partido de la Revolución Democrática/ Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD): In 1986, a group of prominent left-leaning pro-reform priístas formed the Corriente Democrático (Democratic Current) within the PRI party in an effort to promote a more democratic and open party that they felt had become calcified and hierarchical. After their reforms failed to take root in the party, a number of them, including the son of former Mexican President and founder of the PRI – Lázaro Cárdenas, publically split with the PRI. President Cárdenas’s son, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, quickly became the leader of a fractured and disaffected left, and ran for President with the support of numerous parties in 1988.  Cárdenas is widely believed to have won the election, but it was marred by extensive allegations of fraud and the PRI’s candidate, Carlos Salinas de Gotari, was declared the winner.  After this experience, the parties of the left and disaffected priístas joined together to form the PRD and began the process of fielding unified candidates under the PRD banner.  The party is strongest in Central and Southern Mexico, where it holds five governorships, the mayorship of Mexico City, which it’s held since Cuautémoc Cárdenas became the first directly elected mayor of the capital city in 1997, and the majority of the Mexico City Assembly. At present, there are 25 PRD senators, representing 19.5 percent of all seats, and 72 deputies, equaling 13.6 percent of the Chamber. In federal elections until 2006, the PRD generally trailed the other two major parties. However, in that last election, candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador lost the election by just .58 percent of the popular vote. López Obrador and his supporters denounced the election as fraudulent, though the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) rejected this claim based on a partial recount and other evidence. When the IFE denied the request for a full recount, the PRD called for demonstrations in the capital and named López Obrador the “legitimate president of Mexico.” These tactics did not appeal to all party members, leading to several years of bitter infighting. Recently, however, the major PRD figures put aside their divisions and appeared together in a united front to support their candidate for governor in the State of Mexico elections (July 3rd). See more…
  • Partido Verde Ecologista de México/ Green Party (PVEM): One of Mexico’s smaller parties, the PVEM came to prominence after allying itself with the PAN in its successful 2000 presidential election that unseated the PRI from power.  While a junior member of the alliance with PAN, the PVEM did win several seats in Congress that allowed it to push forward some of its agenda.  That partnership subsequently broke down and the PVEM now most frequently runs in coalition with the PRI.   It defines itself as a citizen’s environmental organization committed to “respect of all forms of life and the promotion of sustainable development.”   Nevertheless, despite being a “green” party in Mexico it is not recognized as such by the European Green Party movement. See more…
  • Partido de Trabajo/ Labor Party (PT): Another of Mexico’s smaller parties, the left-wing PT was founded in 1990 and has generally allied itself with the PRD in elections, including in the last presidential election in 2006. Before this, in 2003, the PT ran its own candidates in the congressional races and captured six of the 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Their 2009 alliance with the PRD and the Convergencia party left them with higher number of 13 seats in the Chamber, as well as five senate seats. See more…
  • Nueva Alianza/ New Alliance: Mexico’s newest party, Nueva Alianza was formed in 2005. While it usually supports the PRI in all elections, it is the party of Mexico’s immensely powerful teachers’ union, lead by its controversial head Elba Ester Gordillo. Gordillo was the former secretary general of the PRI but was expelled by the party in 2005 after an internal power struggle. It has seven federal deputies, and no Senate seats. See more…

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