Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mexico`s 2012 Presidential Election: 364 Days and Counting

Mexico’s 2012 presidential election campaign was officially kicked off today when President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa thanked the “millions of Mexicans” who voted for him exactly five years ago, on July 2, 2006. The National Action Party (PAN) politician captured Los Pinos – Mexico’s “White House” – by a narrow margin of less than 300,000 votes that year. Calderón’s bitter rival in the hotly contested 2006 election was Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who still insists (as do some partisan newspapers) that he was cheated and is the “legitimate president of Mexico.” Obrador is expected to run again, but it won’t be against Calderón, who is barred by law from another term.

Via a personal Twitter account message, Calderón thanked voters who helped him overcome an “enormous disadvantage” and win the presidency in 2006. Just 11 years before on the same date, in July 2000, PAN won its first presidential election in more than 70 years, wrestling away executive power from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), once thought invincible in Mexican politics. The PAN candidate that year was former president Vicente Fox Quesada, who managed to break PRI’s seven decade strangle-hold. Fox and Calderón said yesterday that the elections of 2000 and 2006 had ushered in a “new era in Mexican politics.”

PAN currently has no strong contender for the 2012 elections – a fact recently acknowledged by Calderón – but a party standard-bearer will be formally selected by functionaries in November. Likely candidates as the election season gets under way include Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubón, the PRD governor of Mexico’s Federal District; Manlio Fabio Beltrones Rivera, the PRI President of Mexico’s Senate; and perhaps even the Yucatan’s PRI Governor Ivonne Ortega, who was quoted just this week as saying that Mexico is ready for its first woman president. But the darling of most presidential prognosticators is the PRI EDOMEX (State of Mexico) Governor Enrique Peña Nieto, who purportedly has had his sights set on the Mexican presidency since he was a child. With dashing good looks and a soap opera star wife who he married late last year in a wedding attended by Mexico’s elite, Peña Nieto is a sure crowd pleaser. The national press loves to follow him, if for no other reason than to capture the public’s apparent adulation.

Calderon, Obrador, Ebrad, Peña Nieto
Mexico’s major parties defy accurate characterization, although PAN is often labeled as representing center-right politics, PRI the center-left and PRD approaching the far left. Whatever the realities, Mexico’s next president will have a full plate the day he or she takes office. Calderón’s all out war on narcotics-traffickers – popular or unpopular depending on who one talks to – began in earnest in December 2006, just days after he took office. To date it has cost over 40,000 lives, including thousands of innocent citizens who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, many military and police personnel, and not a small number of local politicians, among them some 25 mayors.

The northern and central regions of Mexico in particular have been wracked by violence, and border communities such as Ciudad Juárez – rated as the most dangerous city in the world – have been left decimated and in some cases abandoned. Mexico-U.S. relations will also continue to figure importantly next year, as an increasing number of American state legislatures enact laws aimed directly at illegal immigration in default of a comprehensive response by Washington.

As the 2012 campaigns open, Mexico’s major political candidates will likely dramatically disagree on solutions, as will their counterparts north of the border. But in a country of some 110 million people facing enormous challenges on multiple fronts, PAN, PRI and PRD agree: something must be done, and very soon.

By Edward V. Byrne for The Yucatan Times
July 2, 2011

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