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Founded in 1939 by Manuel Gómez Morán, the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional--PAN) was the first genuine opposition party to develop in Mexico. The PAN emerged as a conservative reaction against the nationalizations and land confiscations undertaken by the Cárdenas government during the 1930s. The PAN resembled a standard Christian Democratic party, and its early support derived primarily from the Roman Catholic Church, the business sector, and other groups alienated by the left-wing populist reforms of the Cárdenas government. Although the PAN is much more conservative than the PRI on social issues, since the mid-1980s the PAN's economic program has been almost indistinguishable from that of the PRI governments it has attempted to supplant.
The PAN has traditionally favored a limited role of the government in the economy, an orientation that has been adopted by the PRI during the past fifteen years under presidents de la Madrid, Salinas, and Zedillo. Historically, the PAN also has campaigned in favor of a breakup of the communal ejidos into individually owned plots of land. In 1992 the Salinas administration introduced radical reforms to the land tenure law that allowed ejidatarios to sell their plots and to consolidate their holdings (see Rural Society, ch. 2). This convergence of PRI and PAN economic programs encouraged the PAN congressional delegation to work closely with the Salinas administration to pass the government's sweeping economic reforms. In an effort to distance itself from the PRI, in the mid-1990s, the PAN has stressed issues such as the need for democratization, eradication of government corruption, and additional electoral reforms.
Traditionally, the PAN has had strong support in the country's wealthiest and most urbanized regions of the north and center, particularly in the Federal District, Jalisco, Nuevo León, Puebla, and Sonora. The effects of PAN victories in the northern part of the country since the 1980s are highly significant, particularly in the states of Baja California Norte, Chihuahua, Durango, Nuevo León, Sinaloa, and Sonora. The PAN has also displayed political strength in the states of Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Yucatán. The PAN won the governorships and congressional majorities in Baja California Norte and Chihuahua during the Salinas administration, and the local congress in the state of Guanajuato gave a third governorship to the PAN after a state election had been plagued with irregularities. The PAN's major handicap has been its lack of appeal to urban labor and peasant groups.
The PAN has presented a candidate in every presidential race since 1946 with the exception of 1976, when its leadership could not reach consensus on a candidate. It has always been the main opposition to the PRI, although in the 1988 presidential election its presidential candidate, Manuel Clouthier, ran third to Salinas and Cárdenas. By 1992 the PAN controlled more than 100 municipal governments in addition to the three governorships. With Diego Fernández de Cevallos as its candidate and "por un México sin mentiras" ("for a Mexico without lies") as its campaign slogan, the PAN won a comfortable second place in the 1994 presidential race. The second-place win consolidated the PAN's role as the main opposition political force in the country.
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Source: U.S. Library of Congress