P.R.D. Leadership Change Symptomatic of Internal Struggles among Political Parties

Article excerpt

The center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD) will enter the next round of major elections in 2006 under new leadership, following the resignation of president Rosario Robles Berlanga.

The pressure from within to oust Robles reflects the internal struggles among all of Mexico's major political parties. The former governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) continues to experience a power struggle between the party's secretary-general and legislative floor leader Elba Esther Gordillo and another faction led by former Sonora Gov. Manlio Fabio Beltrones.

The governing center-right Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) recently faced strong divisions in the Senate over conflict- of-interest questions regarding influential Sens. Diego Fernandez de Cevallos and Fauzi Hamdan.

Even the small Partido Verde Ecologista Mexicano (PVEM) faced controversy when the Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federacion (TEPJF) ordered the party to restructure its leadership to allow greater participation by rank-and-file members. The TEPJF's decision was based on a complaint by a party member who was denied funds from the national party for a local election.

PRD leader Rosario Robles resigns under pressure

Robles came under fire for her inability to foster stronger support for the PRD at the national level during the recent congressional elections, even though the center-left party recovered most of the ground lost in the 2000 election (See SourceMex, 2003-07-09).

Perhaps Robles sealed her own fate when she promised on several occasions during campaign speeches this year that the PRD would receive 20% of the national vote in the 2003 elections. "If we fail in this goal, I have no business remaining at the head of this party," Robles said in a speech during the official launch of political campaigns on April 15.

The PRD only received 17% of the nationwide vote, with a large share of the total coming from Mexico City and states where the PRD already had a strong presence, such as Baja California Sur, Oaxaca, and Guerrero.

An internal PRD study confirmed the lack of national appeal for the party. The document said the party has failed to become an option in most Mexican states, which reduced the possibilities of victory in the 2006 presidential election.

"This document highlighted the party's shortcomings: the absence of a social commitment, frequent internal conflicts, a lack of concrete proposals and strategies for its own growth," said the Mexico City daily newspaper Reforma, which had obtained a copy of the report.

In addition to the concerns about the party's lack of effectiveness, strong concerns emerged within the PRD about the huge debt left by Robles. The debt was initially reported at about 600 million pesos (US$54.9 million), but the actual amount was probably closer to 360 million pesos (US$32.9 million). PRD officials hope to raise a portion of the money needed to pay the debt, about 3.5 million pesos (US$320,000), by asking its elected officials at all levels to make a donation to the party.

The PRD is not the only party facing financial troubles. The PRI was forced to borrow 60 million pesos (US$5.5 million) and mortgage most of its properties to pay its workers.

Robles at first denied that there were serious concerns about the PRD's campaign debt, but later defended the decision to make the expenditures. "It was inevitable that the PRD would go into debt," Robles told reporters, without specifying the debt levels.

"Going into debt is not the same as stealing money, so I don't see a problem here," said Robles, who served as mayor of Mexico City before assuming the post as party president.

Leonel Godoy replaces Robles

Many PRD members were pleased by Robles' resignation, including her eventual successor Leonel Godoy Rangel. Godoy, who previously held the posts of interior secretary in Michoacan state and public security secretary in Mexico City, defeated federal deputy Carlos Payan for the right to lead the PRD on an interim basis through August 2004. …