Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)

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Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)

The Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional), one of the three major political parties in Mexico, was established in 1946 by president Manuel Ávila Camacho (1940–1946) as the successor to the National Revolutionary Party, or PNR (1929–1938) and to the Party of the Mexican Revolution, or PRM (1938–1946). It was originally founded by president Plutarco Elías Calles (1924–1928) and his closest collaborators as a means of continuing Calles's personal dominance over Mexican politics and as a vehicle for creating national control over local and regional political affiliates. Under president Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–1940), the PNR was reformed with the introduction of a corporatist structure, through which individuals became members by virtue of their affiliation with other occupational organizations, such as labor unions which in a modified form continues to characterize the party. In 1946, with the decline of labor and the rise of middleclass sectors, elements of the party pressured president Manuel Ávila Camacho to reform its internal structure and to rename the party.

In practice, as opposed to the intent of the internal party statutes, the party is governed by a national executive committee and a broader national political committee, whose head is commonly known as the president of PRI. The party president served at the disposal of the president of Mexico until 2000, when after seventy-one years in power the party lost the presidency to the National Action Party (PAN) candidate. The party is divided into three semi-corporate sectors—agrarian, popular, and labor—each of which normally is represented on the executive committee by a prominent sector leader who simultaneously holds a position in Congress. Thus the party structure links the legislative branch, interest groups, and party leadership. The popular sector is by far the most influential in internal party affairs, and in producing future political leaders, who come from major sectoral organizations represented in the National Front of Organizations and Citizens (FNOC). The most influential organizations in that sector have been the national teachers union (National Union of Education Workers; SNTE) and the union of federal workers (Federation of Government Workers Unions; FSTSE). The national executive committee ultimately is in charge of designating candidates for political office, especially at the national and state levels. These choices create considerable tension between national and local leadership. On the state level, various factions, led by competing political figures, have vied for control of the nominating function.

Observers and critics of the PRI have acknowledged its contributions to the continuity of the Mexican political process, most notably as an electoral machine and as the primary channel for grassroots support of government leadership and national policies. On one hand, it remains the most well-organized of the Mexican parties, with the largest core partisan membership. On the other hand, its long identification with the government and its many failed policies, as well as its history of electoral abuses, has led to cynicism on the part of the electorate and widespread rejection of the party's appeals nationally. Its presidential candidate ran a distant third to PAN and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in 2006. Nevertheless, it remains the strongest of the three parties at the state and local level, accounting for 42 percent of voter support in the 2000s, and won a plurality of the seats in congress in 2003.

Internal changes were introduced in the 1990s, nearly all of which concerned the reduction of the national leadership's control over the nomination process. Of the three major parties in Mexico, it has the most democratic and broad nomination process—a genuine, open primary—for its presidential candidate. Despite this important structural change, the traditionalist wing of the party retained control through 2006. Their poor showing in that presidential race is likely to strengthen a younger, reformist leadership within the party in the immediate future, and introduce other, notable changes in the party's orientation and structure.

See alsoÁvila Camacho, Manuel; Calles, Plutarco Elías; Cárdenas del Río, Lázaro.


Crespo, José Antonio. PRI: De la hegemonia a la oposición, un estudio comparado de 1994–2001. México, D. F.: Centro de Estudios de Política Comparada, 2001.

Garrido, Luis Javier. El partido de la revolución institucionalizada. México, D.F.: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 1986.

Poiré, Alejandro. "Bounded Ambitions: Party Nominations, Discipline, and Defection: Mexico's PRI in Comparative Perspective." Ph.D. diss. Harvard University, 2002.

Reveles Vázquez, Francisco, ed. Partido Revolucionario Institucional, crisis y refundación. México, D. F.: Gernika, 2003.

Story, Dale. The Mexican Ruling Party: Stability and Authority. New York: Praeger, 1986.

                                  Roderic Ai Camp

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Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)

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Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)