REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- It turns out a political party founded by powerful teachers union boss Elba Esther Gordillo won't be joining hands with the resurgent Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in Mexican elections this year -- a surprise wrinkle as the PRI seeks to recapture the presidency.
The two parties announced the split, described by both as amicable, in dual statements over the weekend.
Gordillo's New Alliance is a relatively minor party founded in 2005, ostensibly on a platform focused on education. It has stayed alive as a party by making short-term alliances with bigger groups.
But on Friday, both parties said they would go their separate ways. The alliance openly rankled some PRI veterans because it meant committing congressional seats to the smaller party, and was one of the factors leading to the resignation of the PRI's ex-president, Humberto Moreira, in December.
Rivals and political analysts have long argued that New Alliance operates as a reservoir of political seats and appointments for personal allies of Gordillo, the feared leader of the national teachers union who is said to command 1.5 million votes.
(La Maestra, as she is known, remains largely absent from the party's public events and messages amid persistent allegations of corruption.)
Its split from the PRI means New Alliance's allegiance in July is in effect up for grabs. Already, one trailing candidate vying for the nomination of the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, suggested he would consider accepting an alliance with the group for the 2012 vote (link in Spanish).
PRI leaders, meanwhile, said Monday the split with will not affect the presidential fortunes of their party's candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto (link in Spanish). The telegenic former state governor has made several public stumbles in recent months that have led some to question his merits as a candidate.
In an online forum at AnimalPolitico.com, one analyst said Gordillo's marks with the public are so low, losing New Alliance's support could theoretically benefit Pena Nieto, who might gradually become attractive to independents.
-- Daniel Hernandez
Photo: Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico's presidential candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, speaks at a news conference in Mexico City on Wednesday. Credit: Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press