Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ran Mexico for most of the 20th century before being turned out for rampant corruption 12 years ago, appears to be the odds on favorite to win Sunday’s elections.
Their standard bearer — presidential candidate Enrique Pena Nieto — has been trying to refurbish the party’s image during the campaign. The party was seen by many as a massively corrupt, one party dictatorship during its 70 years of holding power. Nieto is a new breed of PRI leader who imparts a more moderate, attractive image for the party. His beautiful soap actress-wife Angelica, along with his own devastating good looks, gives his campaign an aura of glamor that Mexico has never seen.
At rallies the women swoon and chant “Enrique! Cutie! We are with you all the way to bed!” The jostle to touch him is known as the “hug path”.
He has been called Latin America’s answer to David Beckham, John F Kennedy and Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken. And after today, if the polls are correct, he will be called Mexico’s president-elect.
In just a few years Enrique Pena Nieto has zoomed from anonymity to political power, celebrity and controversy; a figure who simultaneously inspires and repels Mexico, and who now seems poised to add glamour to the world stage.
Critics have taken to the streets and also to Twitter to brand Mr Pena Nieto a disaster in waiting; a shiny, duplicitous hologram who will mask the return of corruption and authoritarianism, old vices associated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which ruled from 1929 to 2000.
“If you vote for the PRI and EPN [the candidate’s initials] don’t forget to turn your clock back 70 years,” one person tweeted.
A student-led movement, Yo Soy 132, has mobilised demonstrations and online protests against Mr Pena Nieto’s links to Televisa, a media behemoth, saying that both manipulate public opinion and state institutions in malign synergy.
“My only definition is that I am a pragmatist,” Mr Pena Nieto told one interviewer. “What matters are results.”
Nieto is ahead by anywhere from 7-15 points in the latest polls and is likely to bring a PRI majority on his coattails in the senate and the chamber of deputies. The resurrection of the one party state is not seen as a blessing by many Mexicans. And given the challenges Nieto is facing — a bloody drug war, endemic poverty and unemployment — he will have to accomplish much to make people forget the past and embrace a PRI future.