Saturday, July 28, 2012

And the First Gold Medal Goes to.... China!!!

China has taken an early lead in her bid to defend the top position in the Summer Olympics medal table which they reached four years ago. The 23 year old shooter Yi Siling "shot straight into the history books" as she beat Poland's Sylwia Bogacka narrowly to clinch the gold medal in the Women's 10m air rifle event. A fellow Chinese, Yu Dan, came third in the event.

It was another shooter, Xu Haifeng, who shot straight into the history books by winning the Men's 50m pistol event at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. It was the first gold medal in that edition of the Olympic Games and was also the first gold medal won by a Chinese from either the Republic of China (ROC) or the People's Republic of China (PRC). In that event also, the bronze medal was won by a Chinese, Wang Yifu.

The ROC, had taken part in Olympic Games in 1932, 1936 and 1948. With two Chinas existing from 1949, the International Olympic Committee permitted both Chinas to compete in the Helsinki Games in 1952. While the PRC participated, the ROC boycotted the games. However, the PRC did not win any medals. What became the two Chinas conflict was not resolved until 1979 and the PRC participated in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games after a 32 year absence.

It was fitting that a Chinese first won an Olympic gold in the same city where a Chinese competed for the first time in the Games. With 15 gold medals, China was ranked 4th in the medal list in the 1984 Summer Olympics. Their tally was amply helped by Li Ning, the "Prince of Gymnastics" who won six medals including three golds. It was this same Li Ning who came "flying through the air" to light the Olympic cauldron at Beijing in 2008.

With the USSR and her allies participating in the Olympics after the boycott of 1984, Chinese rank went down to the 11th place with just 5 gold medals in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. However, they returned to the 4th place in 1992 and retained it in Atlanta four years later. From 2000, they improved their rank one place per an Olympic Games. The Chinese reached the third place with 28 gold medals and 51 medals overall in 2000. Four years later, they were ranked second with 32 golds and 63 medals overall. With 51 gold medals, China led the medals table in 2008 when they hosted the Summer Olympics.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Jamaican Athletes at Summer Olympics (1948-2008)

Jamaica took part in Olympic Games for the first time in 1948 while still a British colony. The Caribbean island nation has been a part of every Summer Olympics since then and also has taken part in a few Winter Olympics. In 1960, it was a part of the British West Indies team and in the other instances they have taken part as an independent team. For a nation with a very small population, Jamaica has made a lasting image, especially in the track events at the Olympics. Their performances at these events reached a zenith in 2008 Beijing Olympics where the Jamaican athletes mesmerized the world with their performances.

Over the six decades from London in 1948 to Beijing in 2008, the Jamaicans have won 55 medals in 16 Summer Olympiads. Out of these all but one have been won in athletics. The lone medal for any other event was won by David Weller in cycling, for the Men's 1 km time trial. Apart from another bronze medal won by James Beckford for Men's Long Jump at Atlanta in 1996, Jamaican Olympic medals have come from track events.

This little island was the best performer out of 14 new participants in the 1948 London Olympics, winning one gold and two silver medals. Arthur Wint won the first ever gold for Jamaica in Men's 400 m while his compatriot Herb McKenley won silver. Wint also won a silver medal in 800 m event. An injury to Wint may have denied both of them the gold medal for 400 m relay. However, Herb McKenley had become the only athlete to have reached the finals of sprint events at the same Olympics.

Four years later at Helsinki, another Jamaican, George Rhoden, once more denied "Hustling Herb" McKenley the gold medal in 400 m event. However, along with Wint, Rhoden and Leslie Liang, they won the 400 m relay this time.

The medals would then dry up for a certain time until 1968, when the Olympics were held in Latin America. Lennox Miller won the only medal for his country while becoming the second fastest man on earth by winning the silver medal at 100 m event. Four years later at Munich, his bronze medal was the lonely success once again for the Jamaicans.

Donald (Don) Quarrie was the lonely Jamaican hero of 1976 Montreal Olympics; and what a hero he was. He won the 200 m gold medal but was denied the 100 m gold medal by the Trinidadian Haseley Crawford who passed the finish line an agonizing 0.02 seconds before Quarry. A surprising 32 years would pass before a Jamaican man would reach a 100 m final although their relay team won the 100 m relay in Los Angeles in 1984.

It was now time for the "Queen of the Track" to start her rein. She was definitely the most appropriate woman to become the first Jamaican lady to win an Olympic medal. At the Moscow Olympics in 1980, 20 year old Merlene Ottey won a bronze medal for Women's 200 m sprint, first of many bronze medals which would earn her another name, "Bronze Queen". Four years later in 1984, she 'defended' the third place at 200 m while winning the same place at 100 m. She failed to defend the titles in Seoul in 1988. With this performance, one may have wondered if the boycotts of 1980 and 1984 helped her win medals. However, with her age, she became much better competing with much younger athletes much more successfully. In 1992, she regained her 200 m "bronze title" at Barcelona. The city of Atlanta witnessed her win silver medals for both 100 m and 200 m sprints in 1996. Four years later at Sydney, she once again won a medal (what else but a bronze) for the 100 m sprint.

Meanwhile, it was in Atlanta that Deon Hemmings won the gold medal for an event for which Jamaica was much less known before, hurdles (400 m Women's). Four years later, she would win silver.

The Queen of Jamaican athletics, Merlene Ottey, left the country after a dispute with the Jamaican officials. However, her Olympic career was far from over. In 2004, she would once again compete, this time wearing the colours of her adopted country, Slovenia. She did much better than many of the younger contestants.

One young lady who DID run better than Ottey was a 22 year old Jamaican, Veronica Campbell. She won the gold medal at the 200 m sprint and the bronze medal in 100 m sprint. Also, she was a part of the 100 m relay team which won the gold medal.

Beijing 2008 was THE Jamaican Olympics. The Jamaicans totally dominated the s100 m and 200 m sprints and if not for an error in baton change in the women's relay, it would have been a complete sweep, something another country except the United States could have achieved. Nevertheless, it was an unprecedented achievement by a country with a population of under 3 million.

Many expected Usain Bolt to win the 100 m event and he lived up to, or even exceeded, the expectations. He had exploded to the limelight after ousting Asafa Powell from the position of world record holder just three months before the Olympics. On 16 August, the world saw Bolt bolting ahead of the rest of his challengers (if they could be called as such) and ending up with a new world record of 9.69 seconds despite 'jogging' during the last 30 m. His actions raised some criticism but no one could deny that Bolt was to be the fastest man on earth by far.

Image: Usain Bolt had a comfortable lead over all his opponents.

PhotoBobil, Flickr

Usain Bolt became the first ever Jamaican man or woman to have won a 100 m gold medal at the Olympics. This seems to be a strange fact given their dominance of sprint events today.

Just one day later, on August 17, the 100 m women's team became heroes on par with Bolt. Three ladies from giant USA reached the final and so did three ladies from little Jamaica. The Jamaicans bagged three medals with Shelly-Ann Fraser winning the gold medal with a timing of 10.78s. Both Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart were awarded silver medals with identical timing of 10.98s. No bronze medal was awarded. The Americans left empty handed.

Bolt won the 200 m title with another world record. Veronica Campbell-Brown (The self same Veronica Campbell after her marriage to fellow sprinter Omar Brown) defended her title in 200 m. The 100 m men's relay team won the relay easily, (I bet you guessed it) with another world record. If not for an error, the women would have done the same thing.

Jamaicans have returned to London with the Olympics after 64 years. The Olympics is a much larger event than what was in 1948. Jamaica is a much larger player in world athletics arena than in 1948. The Olympics are here to stay for a long time after 2012. As it seems to be, so are the Jamaicans.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Lecture on "The Changing Role of India in South Asia" by Hon. Mr. Jairam Ramesh

The Minister of Rural Development, Drinking Water and Sanitation of the Government of India, HE Mr. Jairam Ramesh delivered a lecture on the topic "The Changing Role of India in South Asia" at the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS) in Colombo on Thursday, July 12, 2012, while he was on a short visit to Sri Lanka.

Born in 1954, Jairam Ramesh attended St. Xavier's College, Ranchi, when he was small. Later, he entered the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-Bombay) and completed his B. Tech in Chemical Engineering in 1975. He also studied at Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2004, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha of the Indian Parliament from Adilabad district. He was the Minister of Environment and Forests of the Indian Government for two years from 2009 and in July 2011 he was handed over the Ministry of Rural Development. Later the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation was also handed over to Hon. Ramesh.

Opening the event in the afternoon of July 12, 2012 at BCIS, Chairman of the Academic Board of the BCIS and Adviser to the President of Sri Lanka, Mr. Sunimal Fernando said that Hon. Ramesh's lecture was an important event as both Sri Lanka and India were developing rapidly. Sri Lanka, like India, was a different country from what was just a few years back. Therefore, more integration and exchange of ideas was essential.

After Mr Sunimal Fernando's initial remarks, it was the turn of Professor W. I. Siriweera to welcome the gathering. He surprised many of the audience by revealing that Hon. Jairam Ramesh, who looked in perfect health that afternoon, had been hospitalized just a few days earlier. But he did not want to miss the visit to Sri Lanka. Professor Siriweera admired Hon. Ramesh's courage, commitment and consideration.

Thereafter, Hon. Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Senior Minister of International Monetary Cooperation and a personal friend of Hon. Mr. Jairam Ramesh rose to speak. He stated that the world was now looking at Asia, especially China and India. The way out of the present economic morass seemed to be these two economies. This was inconceivable 30 years ago when the world described India as having a "Hindu Rate of Growth".

India is modernizing. Its middle class is growing. Dr. Amunugama stated that this is the opportunity for new openings. It is time to discard the old baggage of troubles and misunderstandings and look at the new prosperity. Dr. Amunugama described Hon. Jairam Ramesh as a symbol of this modern India. He praised the courage of his friend in implementing bold steps especially during his tenure as the Minister of Environment. Instead of paying lip service to all the buzzwords in politics such as environment, disarmament and gender equality, Mr. Ramesh was a bold implementer of what he believed was right.

After Dr. Amunugama's speech, Hon. Mr. Jairam Ramesh rose to speak. He started his address stating that he was pleased to have started the day at an event at an institution named after a distinguished Sri Lankan (the late Hon. Lakshman Kadiragamer) and to end the day at another institution named after another distinguished Sri Lankan, late Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. Mr. Bandaranaike was well known in the political circles of India for his favourable relationship during the 1940s and 1950s with both the Indian government and its leader Sri Jawaharlal Nehru.

Minister Jairam Ramesh argued that the changing role of India in South Asia was a result of a larger paradigm shift of how India perceived Asia and vice versa. He stated that India had always been concious of her role in Asia. It was way back in 1947 when Nehru took the initiative by convening an Asian Relations Conference. However, according to Mr. Ramesh, it is the Asians who forgot India. Until 1990, Indian policy was "look to the east and go west". It had changed today to "look to the east and go east". He supported this argument by recalling the changing perception of India with respect to China, the ASEAN states, countries in North Asia such as South Korea and Central Asia. It is this backdrop that India's changing relations with South Asia was to be viewed.

Hon. Mr. Jairam Ramesh stated three main elements which he saw as crucial for the change in India's role in South Asia. The first and the most visible aspect was a belief that there was a prospect of unilateralism. This is a change from the usual insistence of reciprocity. India, being a large country, could at times be magnanimous without waiting for the small countries to reciprocate. However, some of his later statements made clear that there was still a long way to get free of the reciprocity factor.

The second factor was trade and more importantly, investment. Trade opens doors that usual diplomacy could not open. Mr. Ramesh argued that the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement was one such event. It was natural for a small country to be afraid of swamping by a larger country. Even India has a fear of Chinese goods swamping her markets if more trade opportunities are opened between the two countries. However, the free trade agreement between India and Sri Lanka suggests otherwise, argued Mr. Ramesh. Before the agreement, India's exports to Sri Lanka had been ten times that of Sri Lanka's exports to India. During a period of five years ending with 2010, the Indian exports to Sri Lanka was just five times that of the latter's exports to the former.

Investments are far more crucial for trade partnerships. It is a two way street. Sri Lanka's exports were growing partly due to Indian investments in the country while one of the larger investments of a regional company in India is that of a Sri Lankan apparel company. India has allowed Bangladeshi companies to invest in India a few years back and will most probably give the permission for even Pakistani companies to do so. Hon.Mr. Ramesh argued that while trade can be imbalanced, it can be balanced by increasing investment. It will help the huge trade deficits the South Asian countries have with India.

The third factor affecting the change in India's relations with South Asia is the reasons for regional and sub-regional cooperation. The main reason for such cooperation is energy. India is and will be an energy hungry nation. It has invested in neighbouring countries such as Bhutan and Nepal to increase their hydro power output and enable them to export power to India. Bhutan is currently earning 300 million US Dollars annually through exporting electricity. Meanwhile in Tripura, power generation projects are thought to be beneficial for both the North East of India and Bangladesh.

Water also remains an important factor for cooperation in South Asia. Hon. Jairam Ramesh acknowledged that it was a highly contentious political issue. The flooding in the rivers of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will be affected by the catchment areas of the rivers in those states, some of them situated in Nepal. What Nepal is to India is similar to what India is to Bangladesh in this aspect as Bangladesh is downstream from India.

Although India could be magnanimous because of its size, all these cooperation has to be on a give and take basis. Here, the one factor that stymies the increasing cooperation was the lack of concern for legitimate security interests. This is a greatest concern for India.

Despite this, from early 1990s, India has changed its role in South Asia. This new outlook has survived several regime changes also. It is expected to continue to grow and prosper.

After the lecture, the Chairman of the BCIS, Mr. Rajah Kuruppu, delivered the vote of thanks. The event was attended by the Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan High Commissioner in India and other dignitaries.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

South Sudan Football Team to Take on Uganda

South Sudan, the newest member in FIFA is preparing to play their first international match in Juba Stadium on July 12, 2012, coinciding with its first independence anniversary. For the friendly match to be played in the capital city, they have invited their neighbours to the south, Uganda.

A year ago, on July 10, 2011, just a day after the country became independent from Sudan, South Sudan football team played a game against a Kenyan club, Tuskers FC. Although the newcomers scored within ten minutes, they were ultimately defeated 3-1. In August, they drew a game with an Ugandan club with scores of 1 all.

These results do not indicate that the South Sudanese would pose a strong challenge to the Ugandans. Although South Sudan has some football clubs which took part in Sudan Premier League before the separation of the country, they were of comparatively lower standards to the best clubs in the north. Therefore, as South Sudan Football Association (SSFA) president remarked in an interview with FIFA, although they do not have to start from scratch, there is still a long way to go. South Sudan lacks a premier league of her own. Starting one will be an essential step for the development of the sport. Development of infrastructure is also very important.

International experience is important for the South Sudanese in their bid to field a strong team by the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. According the SSFA president Chabur Goc Alei, about a hundred players from South Sudan are playing for clubs in the North and are willing to play for their country. Their participation will add valuable experience to the newly established team. Currently, almost all the players in the national squad are locally based and lack international experience.

South Sudan football team is currently coached by Zoran Gjordjevic, a 60 year old Serbian who has coached many clubs and a few national teams in the past, including Sudan. His most notable achievement as a coach was in 2010 when he saw the Bangladesh team win the gold medal at the South Asian Games. Gjordjevic was appointed as coach of South Sudan just weeks ago in late June 2012.

Out of the sovereign nations which were either created or ended international isolation during the 21st century, Afghanistan has made several notable achievements in sports. Its cricket teams and football teams have reached a level which was unthinkable a decade ago. Whether South Sudan will equal or surpass their achievement is to be seen.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Rwanda Celebrates 50 Years of Independence

With an area of just 26,338 square kilometers accommodating a population of just over 10.7 million by 2011 estimate, Rwanda is the smallest country with a population exceeding 10 million. The population density is 407 people per square kilometer. The population has increased by a staggering 2.6 million, or over 30% from 2002 figure of 8.1 million.

This explosion of the population was a key factor in the escalation of racial rivalry. From 1934 to 1989, the population had increased from 1.6 million to 7.1 million. The rivalry between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis culminated in 1994 with the Rwandan Genocide, which was an unbridled massacre of the Tutsis by the Hutus.

From 1884, the area now belonging to Rwanda was ruled by the Germans as a part of their most valued colony, the German East Africa. In 1916, during the First World War, it was occupied by the Belgians. From early 1920s, it was part of the Belgian mandate, Rwanda-Urundi. The Belgians were much more involved in the affairs of Rwanda than the Germans were. It was they who identified the identity card system in 1935 which later cost many Tutsis their lives. Before 1935, there was not much difference between the two groups and the well off Hutus could become Tutsis. Not anymore.

Tutsis were less numerous but relatively more wealthy and Hutus were generally poorer. Tensions between the two groups were escalated in 1959 when Hutus attacked Tutsis killing thousands during the 'Rwandan Revolution'. Three years later, Rwanda was separated from Burundi and on July 1, 1962, Rwanda became an independent Republic.

Ethnic rivalry continued with a cycle of violence which saw exiled Tutsis attacking from neighboring countries and Hutus attacking the Tutsis at home. Many Tutsis who were exiled found themselves in Uganda where the Milton Obote regime resented their presence. Things improved somewhat for them after the 1971 coup by Idi Amin. Meanwhile, attacks on Tutsis in Rwanda were also reduced after Juvenal Habyarimana took power in a military coup in 1973. A main reason for this was the improving economy.

The exiles organized the Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU) in 1979. The Rwandese exiles became an important component in the Ugandan Bush War between Milton Obote and Yoveri Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA). After the victory of the NRA in 1986, an exiled Rwandan Fred Rwigema became Uganda's deputy minister of defense and deputy army commander in chief while Paul Kagame became the acting chief of military intelligence. In 1987, the RANU became the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

In 1990, the RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda, commencing Rwandan Civil War. Neither party could gain the upper hand but it helped to lessen the power of Habyarimana. Rwanda was forced to come to the negotiation table and the two belligerents signed the Arusha Accords in August 1993.

However, this accord was resented by the extremist Hutus. These organizations were becoming extremely active and militant by early 1994. On April 6, 1994, when the plane carrying Juvenal Habyarimana and the President of Burundi Cyprien Ntariyamira was shot down in Kigali, the Hutu extremists initiated a genocide which claimed nearly a million lives of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Although the RPF was accused of the attack on the plane, the more likely explanation is that the plane was shot down by Hutu extremists, possibly within the Rwandan Armed Forces.

While the genocide was at full intensity and the international community doing practically nothing to curb the violence, the RPF once again launched an attack on Rwanda. This time, there was no stopping them. The Hutu dominated government was swept out of power as the RPF took Kigali on July 4, 1994.

From July 1994, the RPF has been governing the country. Even before he became president in 2000, Paul Kagame was seen as the man wielding power in Rwanda. He has been accused of curtailing press freedom and human rights violations. In 2006, the French indicted him for the alleged involvement in the assassination of Habyarimana and Ntariyamira in 1994. Generally, the relations with France has been on the decline under the RPF and it has approached more towards the English speaking world. Rwanda became one of the few non-English speaking members of the British Commonwealth and is also improving its relations with the East African Community.

The challenge of balancing its foreign affairs will be on their minds. There are a considerable Hutu exile community, mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the differences with them and the governments in Kinshasa made the Rwandans involve in the First and Second Congo Wars. Relations with the DRC are however improving.

The quality of life in Rwanda has improved from where it was in 1994 but there is a lot more to be done. The increasing population will be a challenge facing the government. Rwandan government is spending more for health and education than 15 years ago. Literacy rate has passed the 70% mark but only 5% enroll for tertiary education. Meanwhile, HIV/AIDS is also an issue of concern but not as much as some of the other African countries. Rwandan economy is based on subsistence farming with around 90% involved in it. Rwanda's main foreign income is through tourism, mineral exports and cash crops such as coffee. Mineral exports have gone down recently due to the world economic downturn. The main challenge of the Rwandan governments in the future will be to ensure economic stability in the face of increasing population.

Image: Map of Rwanda from CIA World Factbook.

Mexico City: A Red Island in Mexico

Mexico City or the Federal District of Mexico is a contradiction in that Latin American country. It allows abortion on request, a limited form of euthanasia and same sex marriage. It is largely free of the drug violence and other crime rates have also gone down. From 1997, the mayor and the local legislature were elected directly and both institutions had been controlled by the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). They are bound to continue that control for yet another six years despite the fortunes of the party has gone down in many parts of the country. The Catholics have vehemently criticized the Mexico City government for the liberal laws they have introduced, sometimes alleging that the PRD is doing more damage than the drug cartels. Despite this, Mexico City is a red island among the largely Catholic country.

Between 2006-2012, the Head of Government of the Federal District and therefore the focus of the criticism of the Catholic Church, was Marcelo Ebrard. He can not run for a second term according to Mexican election laws. Instead the PRD candidate for the July 1, 2012 mayoral election is the Attorney General of the Federal District, Miguel Angel Mancera Espinosa. Three other candidates, all women, are contesting against him, but he is leading the polls by a staggering margin. He is expected to gain around 70% of the votes, leading all others by more than 50%

His three challengers include a former governor of Tlaxcala, Beatrice Paredes of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) who came third with just over 20% of the vote in the Mexico City election six years ago. She is now 57 years old and was the governor of Tlaxcala from 1987-1992, becoming only the second Mexican woman to be a governor of a State. Later, she also served as a president of her PRI party.

The National Action Party (PAN) candidate for mayor is Isabel Miranda de Wallace, a 61 year old social activist. An educator by profession, she became a social activist in 2005 after her son was abducted. She created an organization "Alto al secuestro" ("Stop Kidnappings") and in 2012 earned the National Human Rights Prize. Meanwhile, the New Alliance Party candidate for mayor is a former legislator, Rosario Guerra Diaz.

As the Attorney General of the Federal District from 2008 to early 2012, Mancera can boast of the achievement in reducing the crime rate of the city. The recent shootout at the Mexico City airport between the police and members of the drug cartels was a rarity in the city. Mexico City has become a refuge for those seeking safety from violence.

The biggest challenge facing Mancera if he is elected as expected will be to preserve the safe haven in Mexico City. Around 13,000 security cameras monitor the city and the police force has been effectively led. Despite this, worrisome signs are seen here and there. It is alleged that several drug lords reside within the fancy neighborhoods in the City. On the other hand, these drug lords may not want to become too conspicuous by expanding their work into the city where they live peacefully themselves. It is too early to predict the future of Mexico City under Mancera but it is apparent that he will do his best to preserve what has been achieved during the past 15 years under the PRD in the largest capital city in Central America.

Image: Dennis Mojado, Evening rush hour in the Zocalo district of Mexico City.

The Largest Soap Opera in Mexico: General Election 2012

On July 1, 2012, 80 million Mexicans will be eligible to vote in the presidential and legislative assembly elections. Also, some governorships and mayorships are also for grabs, most notably the mayorship of Mexico City.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) or the "perfect dictatorship party" which ruled Mexico for 71 years until 2000 is bound to return to power through its candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto. Despite losing some popularity in the last few weeks, he is leading the polls comfortably.

Peña Nieto was the governor of the State of Mexico which surrounds the capital Mexico City between 2005-2011. Married to a popular soap opera actress, Angelica Rivera, this telegenic man, who would turn 46 later this month, has been a key factor in turning the whole election campaign into a kind of a soap opera. A Mexican president elect will have a lot of challenges to face, most importantly managing the drug wars which had claimed more than 50,000 lives from 2006. Unfortunately, as in many countries, it is not the hard political facts but the personal mud slinging which has driven the campaign for presidency and also some other races.

There are three other candidates in the race for presidency, including the man who claimed that he was robbed of the victory in 2006, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. He is in a distant second this time. The governing National Action Party (PAN) candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota is at a very distant third place at the moment and Gabriel Quadri de la Torre from the New Alliance Party is the other candidate.

There are fears of irregularities in the election mainly raised by Lopez Obrador. The PRI has presence in many states and it is feared that they may manipulate the vote. A large margin would ensure that the accusations of vote rigging less credible. But, the reputation of the PRI in this aspect was been tarnished during their long rein in power for the Mexicans to forget it too soon. Meanwhile, despite the long running drug wars, the drug cartels still are quite powerful in certain regions and can affect the outcome of elections in local regions. Increasing power endowed to the governors and mayors has meant that they have been able to create personal fiefdoms in certain regions. That has been a notable negative fallout in the democratization of Mexico.

The unpopularity of the PAN which governed the country for 12 years also means that the right-wing party has been unable to inspire the people. For many Mexicans, their 12 year rule has been a disappointment. If not, they would have never opted so strongly for the PRI.

Image: Enrique Peña Nieto - World Economic Forum on Latin America 2010, Copyright World Economic Forum / Edgar Alberto Domínguez Cataño