El Universal has a stunner of a lead story this morning, with the kind of headline you need to go over twice to make sure you read it right the first time: “PRD will lose the DF in 2018, Navarrete says.”
This isn’t some obscure pundit opining from an armchair. Carlos Navarrete is the president of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, Mexico’s main left-of-center force that has had a lock on Mexico City (i.e. the DF) for 18 years, ever since its leaders were elected rather than appointed by the federal government.
In fact, the Federal District is the only part of the nation where the PRD has held power consistently. And now its leader is saying the party’s days there are numbered? Really?
Something to keep in mind is that Navarrete’s observations came to El Universal through a leaked audio recording, with all the baggage and uncertainty such a provenance implies. But unlike recent freelance phone taps of the head of the nation’s electoral institute (INE) or top executives at OHL, one of Mexico’s major highway construction contractors, this one came during what Navarrete thought was a private gathering with party militants, former militants and supporters.
So Navarrete wasn't caught babbling like a racist buffoon, or chatting casually about illegal business behavior. Rather, he was voicing to friends the kind of frank political calculations he would presumably keep to himself in public. The recording is more reminiscent of Mitt Romney’s infamous dismissal of the 47% of Americans whom he considered not worth trying to win over in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.
Maybe it was a warning, rather than a prediction. Perhaps he was giving a pep talk. However it was meant, we have in front of us, right there in the morning newspaper, a leader saying his party is destined to lose its stronghold, later if not sooner.
“I don’t see for 18 (2018) either the personalities or a party with the capacity for renovation in order to hold the government leadership (that is, the Mexico City mayoralty),” El Universal quotes him in its article. “Either the PRI or Morena will beat us. That’s how I see it.”
Navarrete, of course, wasn’t saying anything that others haven’t. The PRD has been in deep trouble for several years now, with one scandal after another — most of them minor but damaging nonetheless. It’s image is shot to pieces, its reputation for relative purity exposed as never existing, its internal strife so ferocious that most of the party founders and all of its former DF mayors have bolted.
But it’s one thing when, say, Ricardo Alemán (a columnist who is a fierce critic of the PRD, as well as of just about every other party or politician) says those things. It’s quite another when the party president does.
Now the PRD faces a challenge from Morena, its schismatic offshoot formed two years ago when Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his closest allies in the PRD took their ball and went to play elsewhere. The battlefield on June 7 will be mostly the Federal District, where Morena is hoping to make enough inroads to establish itself as a legitimate and rising alternative on the left, as well as to help promote AMLO’s expected 2018 presidential bid.
Navarrete seems to think that the PRD will head off the threat this year, but that the die is cast for the years ahead. The political support is there for the PRD; it’s not as though the DF is veering rightward. It’s the party itself that needs a major renovation, and as Navarrete points out, there’s no reason to think that’s going to happen.