Sunday, July 1, 2012

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

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