Mexico’s ruling party on Tuesday chose Enrique Ochoa, the former head of the country’s electricity agency and an ally of President Enrique Pena Nieto, as its new leader.
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The Institutional Revolutionary Party said Ochoa was the only one to meet all requirements ahead of the deadline and hours later swore him in as party president. The appointment doesn’t mean Ochoa will be the PRI’s candidate in the 2018 presidential election but it puts him in contention to be.
Ochoa, who recently resigned from the Federal Electricity Commission, replaces Manlio Fabio Beltrones, who stepped down following the party’s dismal showing in state elections in June.
The PRI governed Mexico for more than seven decades until 2000. It regained the presidency in 2012 with the election of Pena Nieto, who in recent months has had the lowest approval rating of any Mexican president in the past two decades. His government has been battered by criticism over corruption, insecurity and human rights issues.
Ochoa is a lawyer and economist with a doctorate in political science from Columbia University.
Analysts said Ochoa was chosen by Pena Nieto to run the party in a practice called the “dedazo,” or “tap of the finger,” in which the current president has a heavy influence within the party.
“It was a ‘dedazo.’ It was a movement by President Enrique Pena Nieto who needs to move the pieces on the table to prepare for the 2018 election,” said Ivonne Acuna, a political analyst at Mexico’s Iberoamericana University.
Ochoa’s appointment is expected to face some resistance inside the PRI for his lack of party experience as well as criticism because the selection was made without consulting party bases.