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Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) - Explainer

Alexandra Helfgott

The Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Democratic Revolution Party), more commonly referred to as the PRD, was the first left-wing party to unite many of the different left-wing groups that existed in Mexico. Officially founded in 1989, the PRD, then known as Frente Democrático Nacional (National Democratic Front), emerged following an internal split within the PRI regarding the PRI’s leadership decision to not incorporate democratic reforms into the party’s 1988 presidential candidate selection process. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, and several other political figures led the split from the PRI. This new group of former PRI members mounted a successful 1988 presidential campaign when their chosen candidate, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, came close to defeating the PRI’s nominee, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, though many alleged electoral fraud. Following the election, the members of the National Democratic Front united with other smaller left-wing parties to form the PRD

During the 1990s, the PRD’s growth was smaller than that of the center-right party, PAN, but the PRD’s most significant victory came in 1997 when it won its first major election: the mayorship of Mexico City. For 21 years, the PRD controlled Mexico’s capital, allowing the party to develop a strong support base that propelled its leadership to pursue the presidency on three occasions: Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in 2000, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) in 2006 and 2012. 

Continuous internal conflict between opposing factions within the PRD led to the creation of a new left-wing party, Morena, under the leadership of AMLO. AMLO’s departure from the PRD and the creation of the Morena party in 2014 considerably weakened the PRD’s political aspirations. The party went from controlling 14 (out of 16) boroughs of Mexico City and the mayorship in 2014 to only 2 boroughs after the 2018 elections. 

The PRD supports center-left economic policies (i.e. central government planning with a focus on social spending programs for poverty alleviation) and increasingly socially liberal positions, particularly in Mexico City, like legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage. 

Currently, the PRD holds 2.4% of the seats in the Senate (3 senators in total), 2.5% of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies (12 positions in total), and zero governorships. The party controls two out of Mexico City’s 16 boroughs.

About the Author

Alexandra Helfgott

Alexandra Helfgott

Office of VP of Strategy and New Initiatives
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Mexico Institute

The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute.   Read more