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Why the PAN’s victory in Baja California is good news for Mexican democracy

Kiko Vega

Francisco ‘Kiko’ Vega de Lamadrid has emerged as the winner of Sunday’s gubernatorial election in the Mexican state of Baja California, giving the conservative Mexican opposition a major boost in a high-profile election a year after its crushing defeat in the July 2012 Mexican presidential election.baja californiaMexico Flag Icon

Vega (pictured above), a former Tijuana mayor, a Mexican congressman from 2009 to 2012, and a former finance secretary of Baja California in the late 1990s, led an electoral coalition dominated by the conservative Partido Acción Nacional (PAN, National Action Party).  Initial results showed Vega having won around 47.15% of the vote to just 44.15% for Fernando Castro Trenti, the candidate of the governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party).

That means not only that Vega will be the sixth consecutive PAN governor of Baja California, but that the PAN will continue to hold onto one of the party’s most symbolic strongholds a year after the PRI’s young and photogenic Enrique Peña Nieto won the Mexican presidency, giving the PAN a boost after a year of infighting and internal distractions.  A PAN loss in Baja California would have been nothing short of a complete disaster for the party and for its current leader, Gustavo Madero.

The entire peninsula of Baja California is technically divided into two states — Baja California and Baja California Sur  — and the state’s population of around 3.3 million means that it’s not among México’s largest states.

But there are a lot of reasons why Baja California is nonetheless an important state in Mexican politics.

One obvious reason is its proximity to the United States.  The sprawling border cities of Mexicali and Tijuana have been focal points of  migration of workers and products, both legal and illicit, from México to the United States, for decades at a time when U.S. policy is focused on immigration reform.  Both the peninsula and the state are among the most popular tourist destinations for U.S. citizens drawn to Baja’s beachfront bounty — although foreigners can hold 50-year interests in Mexican property in trust, foreigners are still banned from owning beachfront property in Baja California under laws dating back to the Mexican Revolution, despite recent legislation to ease property restrictions.

But Baja California also plays an important role in the development of Mexican democracy — it was in Baja California that a Mexican opposition party first won a gubernatorial race after decades of PRI dominance in what had been México’s one-party state since the 1920s.  When the PAN’s candidate, a young local businessman named Ernesto Ruffo Appel, won the July 1989 gubernatorial race, then-president Carlos Salinas acknowledged the PRI’s defeat on election night, thereby propelling the PAN to its first major shot at power in Mexican history.

It’s not difficult to draw a direct line from that night to ever greater milestones for Mexican democracy — the 1992 elections that saw the PAN win further gubernatorial victories; the 1997 elections that brought the leftist opposition Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD, Party of the Democratic Revolution) to power in the Distrito Federal, where the PRD has essentially governed México City ever since; and, of course, the 2000 presidential election that delivered the Mexican presidency to the PAN’s Vicente Fox.

Though Fox’s successor, Felipe Calderón, followed him to the presidency in 2006, the PAN’s 12-year hold on the Mexican presidency collapsed after Peña Nieto’s victory, which followed a decade-long project of rebranding the PRI’s role in a 21st century, multi-party democratic México.  The PAN’s candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, finished far behind Peña Nieto with just 25% of the vote and weakened by internal disputes within the PAN, despite the historic nature of her candidacy — Vázquez Mota was the first female major-party candidate for the Mexican presidency.

Vega’s victory gives the PAN something to celebrate and an opportunity to pivot from the nadir of its 2012 effort and the ensuing internal squabbling that’s followed, which ultimately bodes well for balancing México’s various political forces in advance of over a dozen gubernatorial races in 2014 and midterm congressional elections in 2015.

The victory also boosts Peña Nieto’s national agenda, the so-called Pacto for México among all three parties in the Mexican Congress, where no party holds an absolute majority of seats — the PRI actually lost 30 seats in the lower house, the Cámara de Diputados, in last year’s simultaneous legislative elections.  Peña Nieto is planning to push for tax and energy sector reform in coming months, and he’ll need the PAN’s support in order to carry out those reforms, especially given the Mexican left’s suspicion of any moves toward private investment in Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexico’s state-owned oil company.

That’s because the PAN’s victory will, for the time being, steady Madero’s leadership, who signed the Pacto with Peña Nieto earlier this year.  Although Calderón himself pushed for tax reform last decade (it was blocked by the PRD and the PRI at the time) and both reforms are largely in line with the PAN’s free-market economic views, the Pacto has divided Mexico’s conservatives, who were already split between maderistas and calderonistas (today, corderistas)  following the December 2012 election for the PAN’s presidency between Madero and Ernesto Cordero, a longtime Calderón loyalist and former Calderón finance minister.

In May, Madero demoted Cordero, who has been more skeptical about the Pacto, from his role as the PAN’s caucus leader in the Senato, the Mexican Congress’s upper house.  Cordero, a longtime Calderón loyalist, has been more pessimistic about the Pacto than Madero or Santiago Creel, also a senator and formerly Fox’s interior minister.  Both Cordero and Creel contested the PAN’s 2012 presidential primary against Vázquez Mota, and all three politicians plus Madero could seek the presidency in 2018.

Continue reading Why the PAN’s victory in Baja California is good news for Mexican democracy

Final Mexican election results (and some positive surprises for the PRD)

We have some more final numbers for each of the key Mexican races from Sunday’s election, and in each case, it suggests that Mexico was warier than polls suggested about returning the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) — the party that governed Mexico for 71 years until 2000 — to power.  Furthermore, the results suggest Mexicans, under the right circumstances, may be turning to the left and, above all, the leftist  Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) may, like so often in its recent history, have lost a key opportunity to win real power in Mexico.

When you look to the congressional races and the key gubernatorial races too, there’s reason to believe that at each turn, the PRI hasn’t won quite the sweeping victory that it once expected, and in many ways, the PRD and even the center-right, ruling Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) over performed from expectations.

Presidential Election.  Enrique Peña Nieto, the PRI’s candidate has won with just 38.15% to 31.64% for the PRD’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD).  The candidate of the PAN, Josefina Vázquez Mota, trails with 25.40%.  Gabriel Quadri de la Torre of the Partido Nueva Alianza (PANAL), won 2.30%. Vázquez Mota managed to win a handful of states in the north-central Mexico (unlike the PRI’s 2006 presidential candidate, whose third-place finish was much more devastating), the manufacturing and industry headland that has always been the PAN’s stronghold.  Likewise, López Obrador carried many of Mexico’s southern states and the Distrito Federal.

What is so striking is that Peña Nieto’s lead was not the double-digit lead most polls suggested, but just 6.5%.  It suggests to me that the PRD made a colossal mistake in nominating López Obrador, with all of his baggage — voters remained wary of someone they suspected remained an old-line statist leftist and he never quite shook the unpopularity that he developed from the months of protests following his very narrow loss in the 2006 election.  It seems unmistakable that the outgoing head of government of the Distrito Federal, Marcero Ebrard, would have presented a much more moderate campaign and may well have given Peña Nieto a real campaign, if not overtaken the PRI’s candidate altogether.  It was a clear missed opportunity for the PRD in renominating López Obrador.

Even today, López Obrador has refused to concede defeat amid what he calls more corruption and fraud than in 2006, is asking for a full recount, and is likely already turning off moderate voters in what Mexico’s political elite fear will be a rerun of the months of protests that followed the 2006 election.  Although he may have some valid points, notwithstanding his closer-than-expected result, it seems unlikely that a recount could make up 6.5% of the total vote.

Above all, the rise of Peña Nieto indicated more disapproval for the PAN, and the Calderón administration in particular, than any love or nostalgia for the PRI.  A modern, competent PRD effort could have well caught fire.

Congress.  Unlike election night predictions and polling predictions prior to the election, the PRI and the Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM), Mexico’s Green Party, a longtime PRI ally, did not win an absolute majority in either the Senado, the upper house of Mexico’s Congress, or the Cámara de Diputados, its lower house.  The PRI and the PVEM actually lost ground — going from 262 seats before to just 242 seats now.
The PAN lost 24 seats and looks likely to hold just 118 in the new Congress — surely a solid defeat, but hardly a wipeout.  Given that the PRI will not command an absolute majority in the lower house, the PAN will likely be the party that determines which PRI-initiated reforms will be passed in the next three years.  This will assuredly provide comfort to Mexicans, such as those in the #YoSoy132 movement, that were so concerned with the PRI’s return to power.  Not only will the PRI be checked by much stronger institutions than existed two decades ago, it will need to work with the PAN to pass reforms — in many cases, market-friendly reforms that the PAN itself has been proposing for years.  PANAL won 10 seats, an improvement of two.
In the meanwhile, the big winner was the PRD and its leftist allies, who will improve on their 88 seats to 140 in the new Congress, and will have a a base to grow upon for the 2015 midterm elections and the 2018 general election.
In the Senato, the PRI will have 57 votes to 41 for the PRI, 29 for the PRD and one for PANAL — again, it will require the PAN’s approval to pass any PRI legislation in the upper house.

Peña Nieto and the PRI win Mexico’s general election after 12 years out of power

The rapid count from Mexico’s federal election institute is in, and has projected that, as expected, Enrique Peña Nieto, the candidate of the the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), has been elected the next president of Mexico.

Peña Nieto had between 37.93% and 38.55% of the vote. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), who narrowly lost the 2006 presidential election, won between 30.90% and 31.86% of the vote.  The candidate of the ruling Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), Josefina Vázquez Mota, won between just 25.10% and 26.03% of the vote.  As shown below in an electoral map from El Universal, the PAN still eked out a plurality in the vote in some of its strongholds in Mexico’s north, and the PRD held on to many of the states in central and southern Mexico that have long been its strongest region, while the PRI found success across the country.

López Obrador has not yet conceded defeat, however, maintaining that he will wait for the final count.

Outgoing president Felipe Calderón has promised a cooperative transition, pending final results from Mexico’s elections institute.

Meanwhile, the PRI seemed likely to win a majority in both houses of Mexico’s Congress — in particular with an absolute majority in the

The ability to control both the executive and legislative branches was seen as a major opportunity for the PRI to implement tax reforms, labor reforms and energy reforms that the PAN has not accomplished in the past 12 years of occupying Los Pinos.

Across the country, up to a quarter of Mexicans also voted in gubernatorial elections in six states and selected a new head of government in the Distrito Federal.

In the DF, the PRD’s candidate, Miguel Ángel Mancera, the current DF attorney general, won the election easily with 63.5% of the vote, extending the PRD’s longtime advantage in the DF — the party’s candidate has won the race since 1997, when Mexico City’s residents first had the opportunity to vote directly for their head of government.

In Morelos, exit polls showed the PRD’s candidate, Graco Ramírez Garrido Abreu, leading with 41% of the vote, with the PRI’s candidate, Amado Orihuela Trejo, following in second place with 37%.

In Tabasco, the PRI’s candidate, Jesús Alí de la Torre, mayor of Villahermosa, and the PRD’s candidate, federal senator Arturo Núñez Jiménez, were locked in a very tight race — exit polls show the PRI candidate leading 37.03% to 35.81%.

Although the PRI has declared victory in Yucatán, its candidate Rolando Zapata was leading with just 30.01% to the PAN’s candidate, Joaquín Díaz Mena with 28.32%.  The PAN held the governorship of Yucatán previously from 2001 to 2005. Exit polls, however, showed Zapata with a more comfortable margin of victory of about 49% to 40%.

In Jalisco, Jorge Aristóteles Sandoval Díaz was set to win 44% of the vote to just 33% for the PRI’s candidate — Jalisco is Mexico’s third-largest state and has been controlled by the PAN since 1995.

In Guanajuato, however, Mexico’s fifth-largest state, and another PAN stronghold since 1995 (former president Vicente Fox got his political start here), the PAN’s Miguel Márquez Márquez, a state minister for social and human development, seems likely to have won: he leads with 49.77% to just 38.04% for the PRI candidate.

In Chiapas, the 32-year-old Manuel Velasco Coello, the PRI-allied candidate of the Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM), was leading with 64.3%.

Mexico votes today!

Mexican voters go to the polls today to elect a new president and a new Congress and the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) looks likely to win both the legislative elections and the presidency in frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto.

Voters in six states and the Distrito Federal will also vote for a new governor.

While we wait, here’s the Danzon No. 2 by Arturo Márquez:

From Cárdenas to López Obrador: Why the Mexican left just can’t win

It’s been a bad century or so for you if you’re a Mexican leftist.

Barring a huge upset, Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections are not going to change that.

Despite coming within a very narrow margin of winning Mexico’s presidency in 2006, the candidate of the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), Andrés Manuel López Obrador seems likely to do much more poorly this time around — despite a poll boost that’s seen him overtake Josefina Vázquez Mota, the candidate of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) earlier this month, and despite an anti-PRI youth movement, #YoSoy132, that has rallied opposition to the PRI (although not necessarily in favor of the PRD).

López Obrador — or “AMLO” as he’s known in the media and among his supporters — is holding a large rally in central Mexico City today to wrap up his presidential campaign, starting on the Reforma, Mexico’s grand avenue, and marching all the way to the Zócalo, the central square of Mexico City.

And while he may well come within single digits of the frontrunner, Enrique Peña Nieto, candidate of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), it seems almost assured that 2012 — like 2006 and so many elections before it — will not be the year for Mexico’s left.

López Obrador, who has, fairly or unfairly, been tagged as a bit of a messianic figure in Mexican politics, refused to cede the PRD’s presidential nomination to his successor as Mexico City’s mayor, Marcelo Ebrard.  Ebrard, who lacks López Obrador’s baggage and who is viewed as much more centrist, could well have given Peña Nieto a strong run.  Given the recent success in several 2010 gubernatorial races of PAN-PRD coalitions, it is possible that Ebrard could have challenged Peña Nieto in a two person-race on such a PAN-PRD banner nationally. Continue reading From Cárdenas to López Obrador: Why the Mexican left just can’t win

Drug cartels and the security issue in the Mexican election

One issue I have not emphasized much in advance of the Mexican presidential and legislative elections is the drug issue, because I don’t think that the issue alone has necessarily driven the resurgence of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and the popularity of presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto.

But it’s of course a huge issue, especially in the background, and it does account for a lot of the fatigue with outgoing president Felipe Calderón.  William Finnegan in The New Yorker and Patrick Radden Keefe in the The New York Times Magazine both provide amazing accounts in the past week or two, with stunning insights into the Mexican drug cartels: the power of the longtime Sinaloa cartel and its head, Joaquín Guzmán; their rivals, the Zetas (a mutant sect of one-time elite army forces-turned-criminals); and the Calderón administration’s “war” against the drug cartels.

Calderón enlisted Mexico’s military to combat the drug trade in 2006.  The results of that effort have not exactly been successful: an army that’s now distrusted by the citizenry, but not feared by the drug lords; spreading (although still very localized) violence; 55,000 Mexicans dead in six years; and a public that’s generally weary of additional Mexican bloodshed.  But the drug violence is really just one among several issues — lack of progress in reducing corruption, economic reforms, GDP growth and unemployment, lack of further energy development — where the public has gotten frustrated with Calderón and with his predecessor, Vicente Fox, in the 12 years that the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) has held Mexico’s presidency.

You should take the time to read both stories — they provide a fascinating background for Sunday’s general election (and make clear that reducing drug use is a demand-side problem currently in Sisyphean pursuit of a supply-side solution).  But I would caution against using them as the sole prism through which to view Mexican politics, for various reasons.

The drug war is an issue that gets plenty of exposure in the American media space, but probably more exposure than it should.  For much of the past six years, the American media has generally overemphasized the drug violence to the point where many Americans now assume that all of Mexico is a war zone. That’s ridiculous, of course — it should be taken with a grain of salt (or maybe a gram of something stronger), but anecdotally, I get the sense that this is one of several pressing issues in Mexican public life for Mexicans, but not the overweening issue.  Growing the economy, reducing unemployment, further tax reform, labor market reform, reducing corruption, reducing poverty, political reform, trade and foreign relations — all are just as important to Mexicans.

It’s also important to remember that drug violence varies widely by region.    Continue reading Drug cartels and the security issue in the Mexican election

Forget EPN and his good looks…

…here’s a throwback from the bad old days of the PRI era: José López Portillo, president from 1976 to 1982, who bears a striking resemblance to the character of George Bluth from Arrested Development.

Cornballers in every kitchen!

But seriously, Mexico is not going to go back to the López Portillo era if, as polls predict, the PRI sweeps elections on Sunday.

The PRI also looks likely to sweep Mexico’s congressional elections on July 1

The presidential race’s outcome may seem all but certain, but the race for Los Pinos has nonetheless received much more coverage than the legislative elections that take place on July 1 as well — and are just as vital to the comeback hopes for the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).

In addition to electing a president, Mexicans will elect 500 members to the lower chamber, the Cámara de Diputados, and 128 members to the upper chamber, the Senado.

If polls are accurate, not only will the PRI’s presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, win, but it will also win an absolute majority in the Cámara de Diputados — the first time that a party has won an absolute majority since electoral reforms in 1996, which would give Peña Nieto the best environment in over 15 years to pass legislation in Mexico.  A Mitofsky poll released yesterday shows that the PRI and its allies would win 44% of the Congressional vote to 29% for the PRD and its allies and 24.5% for the PAN.

Although the conservative Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) has controlled the presidency since 2000, first under Vicente Fox and then under Mexico’s incumbent president, Felipe Calderón, it never controlled an absolute majority of seats in the Cámara de Diputados and only from 2000-03 and from 2006-09 did it even hold the largest share of seats.  Given that dynamic, the PRI and the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) have been able to unite in opposition to the PAN, frustrating the extent of Fox and Calderón to enact major reforms (although Calderón has passed minor tax reforms in 2005 and energy reforms in 2008).

Under the current rules, 300 deputies are elected on the basis of first-past-the-post plurality in single-member districts.  An additional 200 deputies are elected by proportional representation — each party that wins 2% is entitled to its share of seats.

No party, however, can win more than 300 seats in total — 200 seats must always be apportioned to opposition parties.  As most reforms in Mexico are “constitutional reforms” requiring a 2/3 supermajority, most major initiatives therefore require a broad base of support.  While that is of some assurance to those who are worried about the PRI’s authoritarian roots — Peña Nieto and the PRI won’t likely be able to push through legislation that would repress the gains of Mexican democracy — it also is the primary reason that Fox and Calderón have not accomplished any truly landmark legislative victories in the past 12 years.  Continue reading The PRI also looks likely to sweep Mexico’s congressional elections on July 1

Why fears about the return of the PRI to power in Mexico are wrong

Jo Tuckman had an engaging piece in The New York Times on Sunday, decrying the “lost years” of Mexican democracy and sounding some alarm about the likely return to power in Mexico of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) when Enrique Peña Nieto, as widely predicted, wins the presidential election on July 1.

She asks:

How is it, then, that the party’s candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, seems poised to win the presidential election next Sunday and become the leader of 113 million Mexicans?

The answer is that Peña Nieto has run a much (much) superior campaign than Josefina Vázquez Mota, the candidate of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) or Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD).  The PAN has held the presidency for 12 consecutive years, so it has taken the brunt of criticism over the Mexican economy, drug violence and the less-than-galloping pace of political and economic reform, even though it doesn’t control Congress, and the PRI and the PRD have opposed most of president Felipe Calderón’s agenda.  For its own part, the PRD still isn’t truly a political presence in northern Mexico and López Obrador blew a huge lead in the 2006 presidential election and refused to cede the PRD’s shot in 2012 to the younger and more centrist Marcelo Ebrard.

The PRI, of course, governed Mexico from 1929 until 2000, often with a healthy dose of authoritarianism, an even healthier dose of electoral fraud and a lot of government spending diverted to bolstering the party.  For most of the PRI’s reign, it’s safe to say, Mexico was something short of a strict dictatorship (Mexico’s government had certain features that limited authoritarian abuse, such as a six-year term limit for Mexican presidents), but nothing like a liberal democracy.

But Tuckman is wrong to call the last 12 years a lost opportunity, and she’s wrong that the impending return of the PRI indicates that Mexican democracy is in danger — if anything, the PRI’s return indicates that Mexican democracy is thriving.

It would be prudent, of course, for Mexican civil society to remain vigilant for any signs of backsliding, and groups, such as the youthful YoSoy132 movement, are pressing this very point within Mexico.  As it turns out, Televisa, Mexico’s largest television network, had been selling favorable coverage to Peña Nieto — in years past, the PRI may have gotten away with that; instead, it was plastered earlier this month across global headlines when The Guardian broke the scandal (back in 2000, Mexico’s oil company, Pemex, gave $140 million in loans to certain PRI-backed unions, who in turn donated the cash to the PRI’s then-presidential candidate Francisco Labastida, who still lost handsomely), embarrassing Televisa, the PRI and Peña Nieto.

A lot of people think that 2000 — the year that the PAN’s Vicente Fox wont he presidency — marks the key transition for Mexican democracy.  Fox’s election was indeed a landmark for Mexican democracy, but the real turning point came a bit earlier — in 1994. Continue reading Why fears about the return of the PRI to power in Mexico are wrong

Three candidates and two visions for Pemex reform in Mexican presidential race

Although the outcome of Mexico’s tedious presidential race has long seemed inevitable, it has spawned a serious debate over how to revitalize the Mexican oil industry — and, in particular, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexico’s state-owned oil company.

Pemex is the second-largest company in all of Latin America (recently displaced by Brazil’s oil company, Petrobras).  The topic featured in a debate earlier this week among all but one of the Mexican presidential candidates, and it has been at the forefront of policy discussions throughout the Mexican campaign.

Pemex has long been a thorny problem for Mexico, the world’s seventh-largest oil producer.  Pemex is the source of around one-third of the government’s revenue, but the taxes and royalties that it pays to the government (around 60% of its revenues) have left it crippled and saddled with billions in debt, to say nothing of the corruption that has plagued the company throughout its history.

What this means is that, even when oil revenue have been at record-high prices, Pemex has been unable to reinvest in new technologies or further exploration.  To make matters even worse, Mexico’s main oil field production has already peaked and Pemex’s production recently fell at a faster rate than at any time since the 1940s.  Without reform, Mexico could become a net energy importer within a decade. Continue reading Three candidates and two visions for Pemex reform in Mexican presidential race

AMLO rising: López Obrador gets lift in Mexican presidential race

Gone are the days when Mexico’s first female presidential candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, could have transformed the presidential race with her historic candidacy with a high-profile break from the current leadership of her party, the ruling Partido Acción Nacional (PAN).

Over the past month, the man to watch in the Mexican presidential election — except, of course, for the longtime frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto, candidate of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) — has increasingly been Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftist candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), who previously served as head of government of the Distrito Federal from 2000 to 2005 and who narrowly lost the 2006 presidential race to current PAN president Felipe Calderón.

López Obrador led the 2006 polls throughout much of the campaign, much as Peña Nieto has led polls in the current presidential campaign, but narrowly lost after the PAN and the PRI launched negative attacks claiming that López Obrador would take Mexico down a path similar to that of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.  Although those fears were overblown, they were strong enough to deny López Obrador a long-anticipated win.

Once regarded as a hopeless retread in the current campaign, López Obrador — or AMLO, as he’s also known in Mexico — has overtaken Vázquez Mota in polls for second place in the increasingly bleak race to become the main challenger to Peña Nieto.  Despite his narrow 2006 finish, López Obrador alienated much of the Mexican electorate by loudly protesting the vote result for months afterwards, a tactical mistake from which he never quite recovered.

So it was surprising, to say the least, when López Obrador placed just four percentage points behind Peña Nieto in a Reforma poll last week.  Other, more reliable polls, show Peña Nieto with a steadier lead — Peña Nieto has led every presidential poll since last year — but also show an unmistakable rise in support for López Obrador.  In one recent poll, he is even leading among independents and among college-educated Mexicans.

Rivals have taken notice — both the PRI and the PAN have taken aim at López Obrador in recent daysContinue reading AMLO rising: López Obrador gets lift in Mexican presidential race

Mexican race still Peña Nieto’s to lose

 

Despite decisively winning the presidential nomination of the PAN (Partido Acción Nacional) in February and emerging in the Mexican presidential race with a flash,  Josefina Vázquez Mota has spent the last week attempt to rejuvenate her campaign and unite the PAN in her cause, even as the latest polls show that Enrique Peña Nieto, the candidate of the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional), remains the strong favorite to win the Mexican presidency on July 1.

The latest polls indicate Peña Nieto leads with 38% of the vote to just 25% for Vázquez Mota and 19% for Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate of the PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática), who came within a fraction of a percentage of winning the presidency in 2006.

In the 12 days since the campaign formally started, Vázquez Mota has been plagued by missteps— the former education minister’s campaign was ridiculed when her team misspelled the Mexican state of Tlaxcala as ‘Tlazcala’ on Twitter, for example. 

She has tried to draw a line around her campaign this week, starting with a show of PAN unity.  Her rival for the PAN nomination, former finance minister Ernesto Cordero, appeared at a press conference with Vázquez Mota on Monday, and Luisa María Calderón, the sister of outgoing, term-limited president Felipe Calderón, has been put in charge of the get-out-the-vote effort in Calderón’s home state of Michoacán.  Cordero was viewed as Calderón’s favorite and the favorite of many of the PAN elite during the nomination race.

Nonetheless, even today, former president Vicente Fox opined that it would take a miracle for Vázquez Mota to defeat the PRI and win the presidency:

Lo racional me dice que ahora lo que tenemos que hacer es de esa opción (el PRI) que puede llegar a la Presidencia, obligarla a ser buena, obligarla a que deje de sere nostálgico de aquel pasado, de aquellos niveles de corrupción y autoritarismo que vivimos antes, que sea una nueva generación de priístas.

[Translated into English: My rationality tells me that, we have the real option of (the PRI) winning the president, it will be obligated to be good, obligated to stop being nostalgic for the past, those levels of corruption and authoritarianism through which we lived before, that it will be a new generation of PRIístas.]

In the meanwhile, Peña Nieto has been off to an energetic start, avoiding some of the gaffes he endured over the winter — indeed, he has been able to outflank the traditionally business-friendly PAN by suggesting more private-sector involvement in — and potentially a public stock listing for — Mexico’s state-owned oil monopoly, Pemex.  On the campaign trail, he has praised the reforms of the Brazilian government in the 1990s to open its similar oil monopoly, Petrobras, to private investment.  Mexico is the world’s seventh-largest oil exporter, producing upwards of 2.5 million barrels per day. Continue reading Mexican race still Peña Nieto’s to lose

Peña Nieto holds on… for now



With the formal campaign for Mexico’s president yet to begin, a new poll in the Mexican presidential race shows that PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto remains the frontrunner with 39% of the vote to 24% for PAN candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota and 18% for PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with 19% undecided.  

The poll shows some movement toward Vázquez Mota and some very modest movement to López Obrador.

Vázquez Mota made history last month by becoming the first female candidate nominated by a major party for president in Mexico.  The poll shows that while Vázquez Mota has made some modest gains since her nomination, she will have to make much stronger inroads between now and the July 1 vote.  Alternatively, the poll shows that while Peña Nieto remains the favorite in the race, he is no longer the overwhelming favorite that he appeared to be throughout much of 2011.

The race for the Cámara de Diputados (Mexican chamber of deputies) showed similar trends: 32% for the PRI, 22% for the PAN and 18% for the PRD. All 500 members of the Cámara de Diputados will be elected in the July 1 election, along with all 128 members of Mexico’s Senate. Deputies are elected for three-year terms, while Senators and the President are elected to six-year terms. In each case, incumbents are not allowed to run for reelection.