Ebrard Throws Mexico Party’s Succession Plans into Question

(Bloomberg) -- Mexico’s former Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, a frontrunner for the ruling party’s presidential candidacy, said the process used to pick the nominee was tainted and needs to be redone, throwing doubt on the carefully-staged system used to choose the successor to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

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Ebrard said in a web video Wednesday his team found anomalies in 14% of the ballots, part of a big national poll that the Morena party is doing to decide on the candidacy. After posting the video, police blocked his team from monitoring the vote count, he said in a second video, just hours before Morena is set to announce the nominee who will seek to retain power and succeed Lopez Obrador in next year’s general election.

“This is not OK. I’m being loyal with the people who formed Morena, to the movement we represent,” Ebrard said. “I want to say it now, before votes are counted.”

In a radio interview later in the afternoon, he added that based on the police’s actions, he considered himself out of the party’s process, and he would weigh next steps in coming days.

Read More: Mexico Ruling Party Picks Presidential Candidate: What to Watch

Ebrard’s attacks against his own party, even calling its president “coward,” comes at a critical moment of Mexico’s life as Lopez Obrador starts his final year in office and Morena, which has dominated the country’s political scene in the past five years, picks a successor. Polls show whoever wins the candidacy has a significant chance to obtain the presidency next year thanks to the president’s high popularity and his party’s recent electoral success.

Morena decided to poll over 12,000 people in early September to determine who will be the candidate, with results due to be announced Wednesday after 5 p.m. The last polls published showed Ebrard trailing former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, who is close to Lopez Obrador and has long been seen as his heir apparent.

“They used the police a few moments ago to stop our representation being there during the ballot count,” Ebrard said. One of Ebrard’s lead supporters, Senator Martha Lucia Micher, told reporters that police assaulted her when she tried to enter. “They sent police, they closed the door on me, they hit me,” she said.

A group of Morena governors responded to Ebrard’s comments with a letter saying they supported the process, while party officials insisted the selection was done according to the rules.

“Unfortunately wrong, erroneous, false information has been spread,” said Alfonso Durazo, governor of the state of Sonora and party coordinator. “We regret this.”

From the more technocratic, business-friendly wing of the populist Morena party, 63-year-old Ebrard has consistently lagged behind Sheinbaum in the polls. He is one of the best-known faces in Mexican politics, having run Mexico City for six years and been foreign minister for most of Lopez Obrador’s term. While Ebrard was in the cabinet, the president often tasked him with running complex issues like procuring and distributing Covid-19 vaccines.

The winner of the survey will face outspoken Senator Xochitl Galvez, a successful businesswoman coming from an impoverished town in central Mexico, who has been named the candidate for opposition coalition Frente Amplio por Mexico, which includes the three main parties that dominated Mexican politics before Morena’s rise to power.

--With assistance from Carolina Gonzalez and Cyntia Barrera Diaz.

(Updates with Ebrard comments in fourth paragraph)

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