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Race for PAN candidacy heats up

September 16, 2011

Another contender has officially entered the race to be presidential candidate for the National Action Party (PAN) in next year’s general election.

Ernesto Cordero stepped into the fray this week as he stood down as Finance Secretary to concentrate solely on a presidential campaign. Immediately going on the attack, Cordero denounced the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) as “authoritarian, irresponsible and immoral.”

This appears to be the PAN’s main plan of attack: to paint the PRI, which ruled Mexico for 70 years until 2000, as an unchanged party of the past that would represent a step back for the country.

Cordero joins Josefina Vazquez Mota and Santiago Creel as official PAN candidates. Still waiting in the wings is Jalisco Governor Emilio Gonzalez, who outlined his presidential ambitions last week and talked up his chances of winning next year’s general election.

“It is not easy to defeat the PRI,” Gonzalez said, implying that he should be the PAN’s candidate because he is the only one to have already beaten their main rivals – in the previous Jalisco state elections. Yet a nationwide victory over the PRI would prove a far tougher task than in Jalisco, which is a PAN stronghold that the party has won for the last four successive elections.

With two years remaining as state governor, Gonzalez will ask permission from the State Congress to take a leave of absence from his post in November and aims to begin his campaign in December. He is reluctant to do so before October’s Pan American Games, which will offer ample opportunities for self-promotion and political showboating.

The Jalisco Governor would do well to overtake Vazquez, who has built up a commanding 19.1 percent lead over her rivals, according to a poll of 1,500 Mexican citizens by the Strategic Communication Cabinet (GCE).

Vasquez leads with 46.5 percent, followed by Creel with 27.4 percent. Cordero has 12.9 percent – which may well rise now that he has officially entered the race – while Gonzalez trails with just 8.6 percent.

“For me the unity of the party is fundamental; the interests of the PAN must be the priority above all else,” said Creel this week, calling for a debate with Vazquez and Cordero so that PAN supporters know each candidate’s political platforms and plans for the nation, without dividing the party.

It remains unclear which candidate will receive the backing of President Felipe Calderon, who is not permitted to seek a second term in office, but having been chosen as a cabinet member, Cordero seems the most likely choice. However, given Calderon’s low popularity ratings, an endorsement could do more harm that good to a candidate’s prospects.

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