When the PRI lost the presidency in 2000, for the first time since its founding in 1929, there was overwhelming excitement and relief. And yet, just 12 years after Mexico's transition to democracy – amid a public wearied by violence and skeptical about how deep Mexico’s democratic transition really was – the PRI seems to be making a comeback.
Now, many are wondering whether a PRI victory in this election would mean that Mexico is retreating from its long march toward democracy. Student protestors have recently taken to the streets and written on social media with fury about the implications of the PRI coming back to power.
The PRI says it is a political party "of today." Its candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, hails from a younger, more modern generation that cares deeply about democracy, the party says, yet with the PRI's backing he can leverage the party's vast political experience and efficiency to solve the country's deepest economic and security problems.
It's unclear how many Mexicans are buying this message, but polls show Mr. Peña Nieto is out front with a comfortable two-digit advantage, according to most polls, in part because they are voting against the status quo.
Twelve years after its democratic transition, Mexicans are disillusioned with the state of democracy, which many say they believed would have deepened by now. Weak institutions, monopolies that cripple competition and economic growth, and corruption still dominate. Among the top concerns is violence, including the 50,000-plus drug-related deaths in six years.