• Mexico’s ruling Morena party, led by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, appears to have avoided a desertion crisis in the leadup to the country’s 2024 elections.
  • Morena was expected to face potential dissolution because of its base largely consisting of a cult of personality surrounding the term-limited López Obrador.
  • López Obrador, a leftist, was elected in 2018, seizing power from the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, a longstanding titan of Mexican politics.

Mexico’s ruling party appears to have dodged the possible large-scale desertions of disappointed hopeful candidates in the run-up to the country’s 2024 elections.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard announced he would not leave President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s Morena party.

Ebrard had wanted the party’s nomination for president in the June elections but lost to former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum amid what he claimed was improper polling and campaigning.

But Ebrard said Monday he had reached “a political understanding” with Sheinbaum and would continue working as “the second force” within Morena.

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“We can form part of a coalition of forces,” he said.

The party was at risk of falling apart because it was built around López Obrador’s outsized personality. He cannot run for reelection and will leave office in 10 months, and there is little else to hold its disparate membership together.

Ebrard said he met with Sheinbaum on at least two occasions and had reached an agreement to work within Morena. He did not say whether he would have a role in her administration if she becomes president, which polls indicate she is favored to do.

Ebrard said Sheinbaum did not offer him any post.

On Saturday, Morena named its candidates for eight governorships and Mexico City’s mayoral election but in the process dodged another possible high-profile defection.

The party ruled out the most popular candidate for the capital city’s mayorship, which is viewed as the country’s second most important political post and a launching pad for future presidential bids.

Former capital police chief Omar García Harfuch, who topped polls on the race but was knocked out of contention by a gender quota requiring a female candidate, told local media Saturday he had no plans to leave the party.

“We will always respect the gender quotas and the decision of our party,” García Harfuch wrote in his social media accounts.

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador holds his daily news conference, a day after Mexico’s ruling party National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) announced the result of its poll to decide the party’s presidential nomination for 2024, in Mexico City, Mexico September 7, 2023.  (REUTERS/Raquel Cunha)

García Harfuch gained fame as a tough and effective Mexico City police chief after he survived a 2020 ambush attack by the Jalisco drug cartel on a street in the capital. The brazen attack left him with three bullet wounds, while his two bodyguards and a bystander were killed.

Because the capital is so large and has over 9 million inhabitants, the mayor’s post is regarded as the equivalent of a governorship and has served as a launching pad for the presidency in the past.

But Morena’s nomination went to Clara Brugada, the borough president in a rough stretch of low-income neighborhoods on the city’s east side. The party’s leftist wing preferred Brugada because she built what she calls “utopias” — sports and cultural complexes — in neighborhoods where past administrations focused on the bare-bones issues of drainage, policing and chaotic transportation networks.

Under new rules issued by electoral authorities that are still being challenged in courts, five of the nine candidates for governorships next year were supposed to be women. While the rules are still under challenge, Morena decided to abide by them, many believe, in order to knock out Garcia Harfuch, who was hotly opposed by the party’s old guard membership.

In the face of López Obrador’s continued popularity, however, there have been only a few minor defections.

A primary candidate who failed to secure Morena’s nomination left the party in Morelos state, south of Mexico City. Sen. Lucía Meza announced this week that she will run on the opposition ticket for governor.

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The brake on defections that Morena appears to have applied mirrors the history of Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which survived in power for decades based on a set of rules known as “institutionality.”

Under those rules, outgoing presidents and governors were allowed to handpick their successors but had to retire from politics entirely after their terms ended. Losing primary candidates received consolation prizes in the form of other posts and were expected to accept them without complaint.

But the system, which Morena appears to have replicated, actually was based on one simple proposition: leaving the ruling party was not an option because PRI would inevitably win.

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The party had an uninterrupted 71-year hold on Mexico’s presidency between 1929 and 2000. It didn’t break down until the financial and political crisis of 1994, when factions of the ruling party began physically attacking each other.



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