Mexico's ex-first lady leaves party, hints at run

Mexico's former first lady Margarita Zavala announced Friday she is resigning from the conservative National Action Party, known as the PAN.

Zavala is the wife of ex-President Felipe Calderon, who governed from 2006 to 2012. She had announced her intention to run for the party's presidential nomination, but found herself in open conflict with party leader Ricardo Anaya, who also wants the nomination.

In a video Friday, Zavala accused the party's current leadership of cancelling internal elections and said they had "handed the party's most important decision to others."

That was an apparent reference to last month's announcement of an alliance between the PAN and center-left Democratic Revolution Party for the July 2018 presidential elections.

Zavala did not mention Anaya by name, but the two have had public, heated exchanges recently. In the video, she said PAN leaders "have imposed anti-democratic conditions that we criticized for so long in the PRI," referring to the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Zavala hinted she might run for the presidency outside her party but was not clear, saying only "I resign from the PAN, but not from my duty to participate in politics."

However, she did say the timing of her decision was influenced by Mexico's complex electoral laws, which set out strict time tables for declaring nominees and independent candidacies.

"I am resigning from the PAN for the reasons I have enumerated, but also because the law obliges me to do so," said Zavala, "even before we know what the nomination procedure will be for National Action or the so-called alliance.'

"If I did not do this," she said, "I would be prevented from participating in the elections."

The most immediate beneficiary from strife in the PAN may be the battered PRI, which now will face a less-united opposition alliance. Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is seen as the front-runner in the presidential race, has said Zavala is the PAN's strongest candidate, and encouraged her to run as an independent.

Lopez Obrador, who lost two previous bids for the presidency, has promoted himself as the only real alternative to the largely discredited PRI, and so may also benefit from a highly fragmented field.