Racked by infighting and a stinging series of election losses, Mexico’s National Action Party [PAN] eked out a victory in the governor’s race in Baja California, a party stronghold with special significance as the first opposition victory that helped usher in the country’s democratic era. PAN has governed Baja California uninterrupted for 24 years since the historic election of Ernesto Ruffo Appel in 1989 took the state from the Institutional Revolutionary Party [PRI], Mexico’s authoritarian rulers.
A PAN loss in its most symbolic state was considered ‘a potentially irreparable blow to the party.’ Adela Navarro, editor of Zeta, the crusading Tijuana weekly newspaper, put it more succinctly, calling a PAN defeat in Baja California possibly the party’s ‘knockout punch.’ PAN also took back Mexicali and Rosarito, two of the five municipalities that PRI won during the last round of municipal elections. But the state’s largest prize, the city of Tijuana, stayed in the PRI column with the election of the party’s mayoral candidate, Jorge Astiazarán.
PAN’s wins, however, weren’t theirs alone. Their alliance with the leftist party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution [PRD]—so effective in other states in the 2010 in beating back PRI’s surging momentum—was instrumental. During victory celebrations in the city’s Zona Rio neighborhood, the yellow and black flags of the PRD constituted a sizable visual portion of Francisco ‘Kiko’ Vega’s support.
While it was a good night for PAN, in an election characterized by low voter turnout, their victory was hardly a mandate or an affirmation of PAN governance. As tireless Tijuana booster Genaro Valladolid noted on his social network feed, now that the election is over, ‘We have to forget PAN, PRI, PRD or whatever, and become Tijuanenses and Baja Californians and work for the good of all.’ It’s in civil society, not political parties, where the profound possibilities for change exists.