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Mexico's PRI eyes jump-start to reforms if victorious-aide
MEXICO CITY |
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's main opposition faction hopes to secure support for energy, fiscal and labor market reforms by December if its candidate who is well ahead in the polls wins the presidency, a senior official in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) said on Wednesday.
Enrique Pena Nieto of the PRI is strong favorite to win the July 1 presidential election, and he has pledged to overhaul the Mexican economy in pursuit of annual growth of around 6 percent.
Opening up state oil firm Pemex to more private investment, improving the tax base and liberalizing the job market are among Pena Nieto's economic priorities, and the PRI is hopeful it can broker deals to push them through congress if he prevails.
Should the PRI win, it will seek to build a congressional consensus on those reforms before the new president takes office in December, Ildefonso Guajardo, a top economic advisor to Pena Nieto, told Reuters in an interview.
"That is the intention," said Guajardo, chairman of the economics committee in the lower house. He is seen by some analysts as a potential economy minister under Pena Nieto.
How quickly the PRI progresses in the negotiations would depend heavily on the election's results, but the centrist party had the will and ability to pull it off, Guajardo added.
Mexico has a five-month transition period between the election and the accession of new presidents, who may only serve a single six-year term. Congress will reconvene in September.
The PRI dominated Mexico until it was ousted by the conservative National Action Party (PAN) in 2000, ending a 71-year stretch in power marred by allegations of corruption and authoritarianism, especially in the latter part of its rule.
Support for President Felipe Calderon's PAN, however, has fallen due to its inability to curb drug-related violence that has killed 55,000 people since the start of 2007, and the party's failure to create enough jobs for Mexico's growing population.
The PAN's loss has been the PRI's gain, and recent opinion polls have shown Pena Nieto could win almost as many votes as his two main rivals combined. The polls also suggest the PRI and its allies could win an absolute majority in the lower house.
DEALING WITH CONGRESS
The PRI has attacked the PAN's record on growth, which has averaged about 2 percent since 2001. Nevertheless, the economic performance under the PRI in the years going back to Mexico's default on its debts in 1982 was only slightly superior.
Guajardo said the Pemex shake-up, the labor market bill and fiscal plan to expand the tax base and make public spending more efficient were part of the strategy to reach six percent growth, alongside putting a stop to the violence afflicting the country.
"The way Mexican (public) budgets are managed is obsolete. It's very short-sighted and terribly short term," he said.
The measures the centrist PRI is seeking to push through congress are similar to those it has blocked in disputes with the PAN under Calderon, who has managed to open up struggling oil giant Pemex to limited private investment.
The PRI says its plans to allow private involvement in production, exploration and refining at Pemex will require a constitutional change, or two-thirds backing in congress.
Guajardo said Pena Nieto, 45, had shown he could work with both sides of the political divide while serving as governor of the State of Mexico between 2005 and 2011. Mexico's most populous state with over 15 million people abuts the capital.
Though Pena Nieto is proposing some economic reforms that sit uncomfortably with many traditionalists on the Left, the PRI expects to be able to work with a sizable number from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Guajardo said.
"This is the part associated with Marcelo," he said, referring to Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who many moderate leftists hoped would win the PRD's nomination for the presidency in 2012 until his defeat by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Guajardo said he was also confident that leftists in the PRI, a party with socialist roots that later moved toward the center, would not obstruct Pena Nieto's reform agenda.
(Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Philip Barbara)
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