Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexico's Chameleons

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexico's Chameleons

Article excerpt

A political party that's been in power for seven decades knows by now how to reinvent itself. Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is not loaded down with dinosaurs, as is often said, but with chameleons.

That's why PRI's first-ever presidential primary on Sunday transformed its skin just enough to boost its chances of winning a general election next July 2.

Mexican voters, who are growing savvier at a faster clip than PRI is, welcomed an end to the tradition of PRI powerful elders (the "dinosaurs") picking the next presidential candidate with the dedazo, or "big finger." They turned out in higher-than-expected numbers (10 million) and put their own finger on party reformer Francisco Labastida Ochoa.

PRI has had to shift its power-clinging ways beyond patronage, ballot fraud, social services, and historic revolutionary rhetoric. In the 1980s, it offered market capitalism, only to blow it with the 1995 peso crisis.

A close call with losing elections in 1997 forced PRI to become more democratic. …

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