With the Mexican Presidential Election approaching, below Maria Elena Enríquez, FDA Researcher with a background in political science and international relations and Mexican citizen, shares her opinion on the Mexican election. Based on her research and opinion, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the candidate for Party of Democratic Revolution, focuses on austerity, job creation, and economic growth, while Peña Nieto and the PRI Party are linked to authoritarianism and organized crime, and incumbent Josefina Vazquez Mota and the PAN party are criticized for Mexico's economic and social decline and failure to meet the people's expectations.
2012 Mexican Election
Mexico’s future course will be defined on July 1st. With less than two weeks until the Presidential election, the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN, National Action Party), the political party in power, is struggling to keep power.
The situation is complicated. Twelve years ago the PAN’s (right-wing party) election triumph, represented a new direction after a long hegemony of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party), the same party that today is favored to win the presidential elections again. The democratic transition in Mexico began with a very fragile citizenship (due to social and economic pressures) but with high expectations, which never really came to be realized, and, therefore, today the citizens seems to have a desire to punish the party that they had brought to power 12 years ago.
The PAN administration certainly did not have an easy job, but still they do not appear to have worked strongly enough to build off their public support so that it responds to voters’ expectations. This was already perceived in the beginning of their second presidential period, in which Felipe Calderón, the Mexican president, won the elections with only 0.56% advantage over the candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD, Party of the Democratic Revolution, Andrés Manuel López Obrador;) who is running again for the presidency this year.
During the past years, there hasn’t been economic growth (Mexico has an annual growth rate of less than 2% and poor job creation) and both social insecurity as well as inequality has deepened. As a result, the people perceive that Mexico situation has worsen. Although it is difficult to objectify the social decline, this is a fundamental factor that will affect voting.
The PRI took advantage of this situation, winning back the majority of seats in the House of Representatives, as well as several States, in some of the elections that have taken place since the PAN won the presidency. The PRI today rules two thirds of the State legislatures.
There are currently four parties running for the presidential elections. The PRI, with Enrique Pena Nieto; the PAN, with Josefina Vazquez Mota; the PRD, with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and the Nueva Alianza, with Gabriel Quadri.
Some citizens see the PRI as the experienced party; their way of doing politics is the way they are familiar with, and the way it is necessary to deal with the current problems. Also, the PRI nominated a young and strategic candidate for the Presidential election: the governor of the Estado de México (the most important state after Mexico City) who was already very popular.
But one month ago everything began to change. Peña Nieto was not well received and confronted by the students of the Universidad Iberoamericana, where he had been invited to participate in a conference. He was questioned about delicate situations that happened during his term as governor of the Estado de Mexico, as well as other subjects, such as media manipulation. After several allegations that the situation had been orchestrated by the other parties, and even calling it a plot; 131 students published a video on social media showing that they were students at that university and that they had acted on their beliefs and nothing more. Some media covered these events and students from all over the country began supporting a movement called “Yo soy #132” (I am #132), in which, most of them, protest against media manipulation favoring the PRI’s return to power. Some of the movement followers have openly declared they do not support any specific party, while some others have declared they support the left party’s candidate, López Obrador.
In order to present their proposals, the four candidates have held two presidential debates. Both had similar formats, in which the four candidates continued with their known proposals, the same old speeches, empty of innovative proposals and that didn’t cause any major impact in the citizens’ preferences; rather it consolidated them. What certainly stood out from the last debate is that the fight is now between two candidates, Enrique Peña Nieto y Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who now has advantage over the PAN candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, before second in the polls.
López Obrador, taking advantage of the situation against Peña Nieto, and aware of his mistakes in the past elections, appeared calm in the debates and gave moderated speeches aimed at all sectors of the country, inviting them to join his campaign against “the corruption and privileges of the regime”. He promises government austerity and, in order to fight insecurity, he promises to alleviate poverty generating jobs and economic growth. He is the only candidate to reveal his proposed cabinet, which would feature well-known personalities such as the writer Elena Poniatowska in the Ministry of Culture (which would be a new Ministry), Marcelo Ebrard in the Ministry of the Interior and Cuautémoc Cárdenas in Pemex (Mexican Petroleums).
On the other hand, Peña Nieto promises an inclusive Mexico without poverty. He also promises to promote major citizen participation and to take advantage of the neighboring countries for greater integration of production in order to compete with the rest of the world and also promises to have a safer border. The fact is that after the article published by the English paper The Guardian, which cited documents that prove the largest Mexican network (Televisa) supports his campaign by favouring him in the media and attacking other candidates; and after an investigation of two former governors of his party for ties to drug trafficking, his own party has began questioning if their candidate is suitable for the Presidency.
Third in polls, the PAN candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota, with nothing to lose, was the most aggressive candidate in the last debate. Her proposals, primarily for family and women, were not strong, but she accused the PRI for supporting a return to authoritarianism and complicity with organized crime and the PRD of supporting populism and resentment/envy.
According to the polls, 20 percent of Mexicans are undecided. The fourth party, Nueva Alianza party candidate, is targeting this segment of voters.
It should be noted that Nueva Alianza is a small party created by the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE, National Union of Education Workers), the largest trade union in Latin America, led by Elba Esther Gordillo, the controversial former general secretary of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and that it is a party that has no real chance of winning the elections but are only pursuing a 2% of the votes needed for the party to maintain its party registration.
With no possibility of winning, Quadri states that if given the strategic voters (those more interested in preventing a party from winning than voting their beliefs), the votes will used to support structural reforms the country needs in fiscal, education and energy. He has been presented as a people's candidate and has been particularly proactive in environmental, cultural and technological proposals. He promises the creation of a Coasts and Seas Agency, as well as an economic free trade agreement with China to promote foreign investment and technology exchange, and affirms that the only way to create equal economic opportunity is a better educational system, which he would finance by reallocating fuel subsidies to education.
With days before the election, a favorite candidate seen a decline in his support, fueled by student protests and biased media allegations. These developments have benefited the left candidate, who is now in second place. Dropping to third place is the incumbent ruling party, despite the strong performance of Josefina Vazquez Mota during the last debate. According to recent surveys, voter preference is 37.7% PRI, 23.2% PRD, 22.5% PAN and 2.2% NA.
It is important to note that none of the candidates has talked about the thousands of victims of the war against the organized crime or the problems Mexican law faces today in terms of credibility, fairness, and equal application. The country needs, no doubt, effective institutions and regulations as well as creative public policies.
Whoever wins the July 1st elections will need to show that he or she has the proper credentials to exercise a competent and efficient government, helping to build a more participatory and transparent democracy.