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Notes on the Mexican Election
Posted by: McQ on Monday, July 03, 2006

Reading through an article by James C. McKinley Jr. in the NY Times about the now completed Mexican Presidential election, several interesting things caught my eye.

First, two of the candidates are in a dead heat. The PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) which ruled Mexico, exclusively for 70+ years until defeated by Vincente Fox's National Action Party in the 2000 presidential election, is out of it.

The two candidates in the dead heat represent the right and left of the political spectrum. The PRI's candidate had tried to position himself as the centrist candidate. Apparently Mexican voters aren't in the mood for compromise in this particular election.

The rejection of the centrist platform left voters essentially choosing between "stay the course" on the right or radical change on the left. It appears that voters who cast ballots for Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (the current ruling party under Fox) either approved of the policies of the Fox administration or thought they needed more time to develop. Calderón's platform addressed jobs and the economy with a more free market approach:
Mr. Calderón, 43, said he would create jobs through securing more private investment and by cutting taxes.
The taxes Calerón is talking about cutting are corporate taxes. Calderón, is a conservative former energy minister and is backed by business leaders.

On the other hand, those voting for Andrés Manuel López Obrador (former Mayor of Mexico City and an acknowledged leftist) are voting for radical change. Obrador has been mostly backed by the poor and has said said he would spend $20 billion on social programs and public works to jump-start the economy.

So we have, essentially, a replay of various election scenarios which have played out within Central and South America within the last few years, with mixed results in terms of outcome. For instance leftist candidates have won Venezuela and Bolivia, but the right has held them off in other contests. As McKinley notes, in terms of its impact on the US:
At stake in the contest is whether the country remains on a conservative track and stays a firm United States ally or joins a trend that has brought several leftists to power in Latin America in recent years, weakening Washington's influence.
I'm coming to the conclusion, as I watch these various elections unfold that the real lesson of socialism still hasn't been learned. It appears many still buy into the lie that true socialism can and will work and that its past failure in various parts of the world isn't due to the bankruptcy of the ideology, but instead lays in its poor execution. Of course Venezuela, buoyed by increased oil wealth, is only helping to perpetuate that pernicious lie.

On the other hand, the rule of right-wing oligarchs has caused the citizens of these various countries to cast about for various alternatives to the status quo and the siren song of social and economic equality is powerful to those suffering under the present regime.

According to McKinley, this election was the first time "American style" campaigns were waged.
This race was the first modern election in Mexico in which all three major candidates received equal coverage from the media and waged an American-style battle of advertisements on radio and television, from inspirational spots promising more jobs to clever mudslinging attacks.

Mexicans learned the pitfalls and advantages of negative advertising, as all sides delivered broadsides. Mr. Calderón's camp tried to paint Mr. López Obrador as a dangerous leftist and a closet dictator who would bankrupt the country with welfare programs.

Mr. López Obrador portrayed Mr. Calderón as a member of the ruling elite that has enjoyed what he called "privileges" in Mexico for centuries — government sinecures, sweetheart contracts and low taxes.
Sound familiar? Obrador was leading in the polls when he apparently crossed a rhetorical line which didn't sit well with many Mexican voters:
But Mr. López Obrador stumbled in February when he attacked President Fox for using the bully pulpit of his office to campaign for Mr. Calderón. The leftist accused Mr. Fox of meddling in the election, compared him to a twittering tropical bird called a "chachalaca" and rudely told him to "shut up."

The comment did not sit well with many Mexicans, who revere the presidency, if not the president. Mr. Calderón's campaign pounced on the comment, running ads showing Hugo Chávez, the leader of Venezuela, insulting Mr. Fox side by side with Mr. López Obrador's rant. The Calderón campaign also began calling Mr. López Obrador "intolerant" and "a danger to Mexico."
He then compounded that mistake:
Mr. López Obrador made a second mistake when he decided to skip the first presidential debate in early April. Mr. Calderon, a Harvard-trained economist, looked the part of a president, sounded well-informed and shot ahead in preference polls.
And that brings us to the virtual dead-heat in which the exit polls apparently find the Mexican election.

Obrador is claiming he's won, saying his margin is 500,000 votes and the election is "irreversible". Calderon is making similar claims citing polls and the votes in key districts. He's declared, "There is not the slightest doubt that we have won the election."

Two interesting side notes. First, how the US was played in the run up to the election:
All three major candidates refrained from bashing the United States or making naked appeals to nationalism, which used to be a mainstay in political campaigns here. Though Mr. Calderón and Mr. Madrazo said they would be tough on crime, none of the candidates said how they would address the gangland war among drug dealers that has claimed hundreds of lives over the last year.

Neither did any of the candidates offer new solutions to illegal immigration, beyond saying the key was to create more jobs in Mexico, rather than to step up security along the border.
To me that points out that all three candidates recognize that whoever wins must deal with the US and doing so on a friendly basis will be much easier than the Hugo Chavez approach.

Secondly, this:
Some left-wing fringe groups boycotted the election. On Sunday morning, Subcommander Marcos, the masked leader of the 1994 Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, marched down Reforma Avenue, the spine of Mexico City, with a few thousand supporters, heaping scorn on all the political parties. Some danced in the street and waved Communist flags.
I have no idea what that means in terms of impact or vote numbers but it brings to mind the impact of the Green Party in the 2000 election here in the US. If the vote is as close as it seems, it might be enough to throw the win to the ruling National Action Party candidate Felipe Calderón.

So keep an eye to the south over the next few days as they try to determine who will be at Mexico's helm over the next few years.

UPDATE: Michael Barone, who's opinion I respect highly, has also written on the election. He calls it one of the "most electrfying election nights ever". If you're interested in this at all, make sure you read his piece. One of his more interesting quotes:
You can infer from Lopez Obrador's and Calderon's statements between 11:00 and midnight that Lopez Obrador thought he probably lost and Calderon though he probably won. But probably. Given the close count, neither could be sure. Lopez Obrador was craftier, laying a predicate for claiming that the election was stolen.
No mention of Diebold (a joke ... that's a joke).

UPDATE II: The vote from a Mexican web site tracking the elections shows the following:

Calderón with 13,897,497 and 36.38%

Obrador with 13,525,931 and 35.40%

Calderón's party also leads in the Senate and House races as well. If I'm not mistaken, that's with 97.11% of the vote counted as of 10:53 GMT today. This is a site with very heavy traffic right now, as you can imagine, so be patient.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I’m sure that the BFEE (if you don’t know, well you’re a Sheeple) no doubt intervened in this election. Look for many private airplanes to be lost in "accidents" and for Diebold to be involved!

The Truth is out there!

Now is Joe being ironic or speaking Truth to Power?
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Seriously, what difference will the President make? IS it a US system, if so who controls the Legislature? Even if Calderon wins will the PAN control "Congress?" Divided government? Or is this a British system, if Calderon wins is it based also on control of "Parliament?"
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Rumor: Al Gore is headed to Mexico to campaign for the Left, saying that we should "count every vote."

Possibly he is hoping for a job in the new leftwing administration. Or else he has the IQ of a taco.
Written By: Gallo Urbanski
URL: http://
Remember they are casting the ballots that Americans just wont do.
Written By: kyle N
LOL Kyle!

More truth in that statement than you know.
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
The right in Mexico has been in charge for the last five years. Illegal immigration North has increased over the last five years.

And yet the political right in this country, which opposes illegal immigration, seems against the leftist candidate.

Why is that? I suppose the response would be that even more would come North if a leftist took over.

Of course, that is an assertion without any basis. Mexico is not as much a socialist country as it is an anti-entrepreneurial country. The problem with Mexico is that the political right strangles small business and entrepreneurs in service of the oligarchs who dominate on the right. Those coming North are not the cheap labor as much as they are the small business people who cannot get started in Mexico.

Would a leftist be any better? Who knows? Maybe, maybe not.

Mexico does not have a history of left radicalism. Maybe a left leaning candidate could smash the stranglehold that the right has on the entrepreneurial spirit in Mexico. And maybe, just maybe, some of those who come North would choose to stay.

Interesting, though, is the Mexico model. We are about 20 years from it. Today, the political right is attempting to achieve it. There is a war on the right against small business in favor of big business. Wall Street vs. Main Street.

It is therefore hardly suprising that the right in this country is pulling for the right leaning candidate in Mexico.
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
I’m coming to the conclusion, as I watch these various elections unfold that the real lesson of socialism still hasn’t been learned.

Most people don’t ever really figure it out... until the "real-world" smacks them right in the teeth.

"You live and you learn... or you don’t live long!"

Written By: fletch
URL: http://
mkultra writes:
The right in Mexico has been in charge for the last five years. Illegal immigration North has increased over the last five years.

And yet the political right in this country, which opposes illegal immigration, seems against the leftist candidate.

Odd. According to this:

...there were approximately 5 million illegals in the US in 1996. In 2000 there were @ 8.4 million. In 2005 there were @ 11.1 million. That would indicate a decrease (an increase of 2.7 million over a five year period, as compared to an increase of 3.4 million over a 4 year period) over the last 5 years, not an increase.
Written By: Anonymous
URL: http://

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