Mexico’s MORENA Party consolidates top position in 2021 midterm elections
Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador thumbs up after voting in Mexico City, Sunday, June 6, 2021. | Marco Ugarte / AP

With the announcement of results from the June 6th Mexican midterm elections, the center-left MORENA Party has held onto its federal congressional majorities in the Chamber of Deputies and won state and local elections across the country in 31 states and Mexico City. MORENA (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional) is the party of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known by his initials, AMLO) who is in the middle of his single six-year term.

According to official tallies of the National Electoral Institute (INE), the parties with the largest number of national congressional votes were MORENA with 40%, 19% for the center-right National Action Party (PAN), and 18% for the long-reigning Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

MORENA’s coalition partners, the Mexican Green Ecological Party (PVEM) and Workers Party (PT), together received almost 8% of the vote. Under AMLO, MORENA is seeking to achieve what it calls a “Fourth Transformation” (4T), a major historical renewal of modern Mexican politics equivalent in importance to independence from Spain in 1821, the reform led by Benito Juárez in the mid-19th century, and the 1910 Mexican Revolution.

Final counts show the midterm earned the social democratic MORENA and its coalition partners a 279-seat majority in the 500-seat lower house Chamber of Deputies. While MORENA itself dropped in seats compared to what it won in the 2018 election, the coalition parties made up the difference. MORENA and PVEM also won 11 out of 15 governorships contested. And MORENA now governs seven of the nation’s ten most populous cities, including Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez along the U.S. border, adding to their existing hold on the office of mayor of Mexico City and other cities throughout the country.

The congressional upper house Senate seats were not up for election, where MORENA holds a comfortable super majority of 77 out of 128 seats, allowing the government coalition to amend the Mexican Constitution.

A social democratic party of a new type?

In the character of the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) and social democrats in Argentina, now represented in the Alberto Fernández presidency, MORENA is a type of Latin American social democratic party shaped by the contours of Mexican political history and the government and presidential and congressional system created by the 1917 Constitution, which was itself a product of the Mexican Revolution.

AMLO is a co-founder of MORENA, and 2018 was the first election where the party competed at the national level. In power, the party has shown a willingness to embrace a solid left identity in the region.

AMLO’s government, for instance, provided a safe haven for Bolivian President Evo Morales during the right-wing coup of 2019 in that country, has cultivated a close relationship to left-led Argentina, and has consolidated friendly ties with the Cuban government.

Currently, Mexico also chairs the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which was created in 2011 to deepen Latin American integration and to reduce the significant influence of the United States on the politics and economics of Latin America.

Evolving relationship with the U.S.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris with AMLO, June 8, 2021, at the National Palace in Mexico City. | Jacquelyn Martin / AP

As a result of the leftward shift of the Mexican government, its enhanced international role, and its emergence among the leaders of social democratic and socialist governments and parties of Latin America and the Caribbean, Mexico’s relationship to the United States has undergone a significant evolution since the AMLO presidency began in December 2018.

During the Trump administration, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard Casaubón and his team exercised a degree of damage control and restraint in dealing with rocky and unexpected conflicts in areas such as immigration and border enforcement. Mexico managed to avoid a threatened Trump imposition of tariffs in spring 2019 when the U.S. asserted Mexico was not controlling border crossings. Mexico also refused to agree to U.S. pressure to declare itself a third safe country to harbor U.S. asylum seekers.

Also in 2019, Mexico reached an agreement with Canada and the U.S. on a revised North American free trade deal—the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement—that is the basis of new economic and labor integration on the continent.

Now, with the Biden administration in power in Washington, Mexico has been an energetic defender of its position of protecting its sovereignty and upholding the principle of non-intervention. One example of this is the recent complaint made by the Mexican government that the U.S. government was funding private sector opponents of the AMLO presidency.

The AMLO administration has also taken the initiative in recommending strategies for longer-term investment in the countries of the Northern Triangle, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, as well as in the regions of Mexico with the greatest immigration to the United States. These proposals were raised this past week during the visit of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to Mexico City on June 8.

At that time, the two governments signed agreements for cooperation in areas related to human trafficking, border security, and regional economic development. Also, under the auspices of the USMCA treaty, the U.S. Department of Labor, with the support of the U.S. labor movement, challenged the lack of union representation at a Mexican auto parts supplier.

Continental solidarity

In this new era of Mexican-U.S. relations, the MORENA Party in Mexico and its leadership should be included in an ongoing dialogue with our organized U.S. communities of labor and its allies, including with left, progressive, and socialist organizations. MORENA’s politics reflect the growth of popularly supported and electorally successful socialist politics in North America.

At the same time, Mexico plays a big role within the United States. There are no less than 42 million people of Mexican origin living in the U.S., over 75% of whom are U.S.-born.

The Mexico-U.S. border region is fully integrated, as we share a tri-national economic zone that ties together workers from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Mexico is now the largest trading partner of the U.S., providing an economic basis for a needed politics of solidarity across our continent.

Official video of the Harris visit released by AMLO’s office. | Andrés Manuel López Obrador via YouTube 


Andrés Jiménez Montoya
Andrés Jiménez Montoya

Andrés Jiménez is an Inter-American political and labor activist who serves as President and CEO of the nonprofit Américas.