After Electoral Defeat, Everything for PDP is up in the Air
The Popular Democratic Party’s (PDP) electoral defeat on Nov. 8 forces it to engage in profound reflection regarding its political pertinence and the leaders who could steer the party through the process.
The PDP’s Governing Board celebrates its first meeting, today, Nov. 17, after its electoral defeat, to decide what it will do with David Bernier’s presidency, who by regulation will no longer be president after losing the elections.
Bernier’s campaign director and former PDP secretary-general, Ferdinand Mercado, said that at this meeting the board could leave Bernier as interim president while the PDP undergoes a reorganization at all levels, and then convenes a general assembly where a new president is elected or Bernier is ratified.
“At this meeting, the board must determine what it will do with Bernier’s interim presidency and the reorganization plan it must follow at all levels, and then convene the general assembly,” Mercado told Caribbean Business.
Re-elected San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz has already expressed her availability to preside over the PDP and her eventual candidature for governor in 2020, taking an important step forward to occupy the power vacuum that was created after the party’s electoral defeat and a virtual renewal of the PDP’s leadership in an attempt to consolidate and strengthen the party as the main opposition during this four-year period.
With Ricardo Rosselló as governor, major changes are expected over the next four years, mainly in the country’s governance because of its fiscal and economic crisis and the presence of the federal fiscal-control board that was created by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Economic Stability Act (Promesa), which in the end will decide the course that the Puerto Rican government will ultimately follow.
Cruz believes—as do her party’s historical leaders, such as former Gov. Rafael Hernández Colón, and other more recent leaders such as Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and Héctor Ferrer—that there should be a period of reflection to specify certain changes on an ideological level, such as the party’s commitment to social justice, as well as its future political relationship with the U.S. government in light of the federal courts’ position that the U.S.’ current political relationship with Puerto Rico is colonial in nature (territorial) and that Congress has plenary powers over the island.
“The party has to return to its roots and be a social justice movement, an ally of the unions and a forward-thinking party,” Cruz said, with members close to the PDP leader saying she will not seek the party’s presidency until it has undergone a reorganization process and has also resolved all pending campaign issues, mainly its incurred debt. This is an arduous job that—if she accepts now—would unnecessarily expose her and would detract from her work as leader in San Juan, according to what her close collaborators believe.
Meanwhile, although it gained control of 45 of the island’s 78 town halls, the PDP has been weakened at the executive and legislative levels because it lost the governor and resident commissioner seats, and in the Senate it only managed to get three of its six at-large candidates and one of the 16 district senators elected. It is expected that three more senators will be added to the PDP delegation when the Minority Act comes into force, but the matter could end up before the Puerto Rico Supreme Court and that decision is uncertain.
The general recount began this week of votes in district 31, where PDP Rep. Jesús Santa is expected to prevail over New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate Luis Daniel Colón La Santa—which eliminates the possibility that the PDP could add two other legislators to its delegation if the Minority Act does is not apply to that body.
Meanwhile, while former Gov. Rafael Hernández Colón proposes a necessary renewal of structures and the revisit of the PDP’s ideological foundations, former Gov. Acevedo Vilá said: “The PDP is summoned to shake off the defeat.”
“There is confusion regarding what we represent, what we are going to fight for and from where we are going to fight,” Hernández Colón said, while urging members of his party to engage in introspection to give new direction to the political party founded in 1938 by Luis Muñoz Marín and which revolutionized Puerto Rican politics at the time.
However, the person who seems to have found one of the main causes of the PDP’s defeat in Nov. 8 was former party president Héctor Luis Acevedo, who noted that during the election, “everyone at the PDP looked like independent candidates” and the party did not come to the elections as a united entity with a common goal.