Looking Ahead to 2012 Presidential Race in Mexico

Results of the July 4 election in Mexico for state governors, mayors and legislators could be regarded as a tiny seismic shift looking ahead to the national presidential election of 2012. Elections were held in 14 of Mexico’s 31 states, with 12 states choosing new governors. The PRI held on to six states and retook the states of Zacatecas, Tlaxcala and Aguascalientes.

First, the win in the state of Oaxaca, which threw out the uninterrupted Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) rule of eighty years, became an overnight national fairytale come true. After the scornful disregard and determined hope for what an alliance of disparate political parties could accomplish together confronting the PRI, the people of Oaxaca came out and voted. This was not a wishy-washy vote, but a popular outpouring of what many regarded as the last chance before violence for a state distressed by corruption, caciques, and dire poverty. It was above all, an anti-Ulises Ruiz vote.

In other states, the same coalitions in their various arrangements also confronted the PRI: the National Action Party (PAN) of Felipe Calderon, the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) snatched from Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by a gang of ex-PRIistas, and smaller parties such as Convergencia and the Workers Party. These coalitions in each state were purely pragmatic, with one major goal: defeat the PRI. In some states, like Oaxaca, that goal included a move toward alternating parties in power, accompanied by rendition of state accounts, an end to impunity, and an era of citizen participation.

The success of the coalitions was evident in Puebla, Sinaloa and Oaxaca where the decades-long rule of the PRI finally ended. But the PRI was not the only loser: in Zacatecas the PRD lost because of this same kind of corruption and arrogance. In Tlaxcala and Aguascalientes the PAN was defeated, also for the same reasons. The PRI won in nine states: Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, Hidalgo, Durango, Tlaxcala, Aguascalientes and Zacatecas; in Tlaxcala and Aguascalientes with minimal margins. Therefore one might conclude that the people have reached, and are reaching, a limit of tolerance; party affiliation means very little.

President Felipe Calderón and his Secretary of Government, Fernando Gómez Mont, worked in favor of the coalitions, despite their dislike for the Left. At stake is the election of 2012, for which it had been supposed that the two contenders would be PAN versus PRI. Gabino Cue, in his victory speech offered thanks to Felipe Calderon for permitting the PAN alliance. But he also thanked Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), defeated in 2006, probably also by fraud. AMLO has gained an ally in Oaxaca for the presidential race.

Nationally, then, the big loser is PRI presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, present governor of the State of Mexico, (Edomex) and the PRI’s best-known politician and potential candidate. Oaxaca, Sinaloa and Puebla, are now lost to him not only for gubernatorial support but also for popular support: vote for vote, as Mexico elects by popular vote, citizens declared their disinclination to support the PRI.
If elections for a new president had taken place in May of 2010, Enrique Peña Nieto would have won, at 26% ahead of the next closest candidate. The PRI builds on its governors and mid-term victories, as well as on failures of the PAN and the PRD, ever since the PRI lost its seventy year old control of the executive branch in 2000.

Now the PAN looks like a disaster due to national control by narco-cartels, job losses, the increased division between rich and poor, and Calderon’s inability to do anything about any of it. He also fell short on meeting the USA with something resembling firmness.

The PRD, meanwhile, faced the AMLO protests proclaiming AMLO the winner in the 2006 race, when AMLO calling himself the legitimate president and Calderon the usurper. Then the PRI apparently sent into the PRD ranks some PRI people masquerading as PRD, and in effect they stole AMLO’s party away from him. That left the PRI in a strong position. However, AMLO has made a reappearance.

AMLO is a man in search of a party to back the principles of the social movement in 2012. He is said to have fifteen million potential voters. “This is the movement for the transformation of the country. July 25 in the Zócalo we will make known the alternative project for the nation we are proposing, the plan, and on the eve of 2012, the end of 2011, we talk with the parties PT or Convergencia or the PRD, (and say to them) ‘here is it, help us to register’. If the three parties agree, we go forward, but we are not going to wait”, AMLO spelled out. He won’t wait for any popularity poll.

“We are going for 2012, that’s clear, and we are going for the transformation of the country. We are going forward. I am emphasizing this, to make it clear, because we are not going to permit this manipulation (of coalitions) to make the people believe there is a difference between the PRI and the PAN.”

He averred that beyond the wins in Oaxaca, Puebla and Sinaloa, it’s an error for the Left to make an alliance with the PAN, “because the PRI and PAN are the same, … we are not making alliances with parties which from my point of view are with the mafia of power…”

Apparently AMLO believes that the loyal voters from the murdered PRD can make a difference, despite the leadership sell-out. He also shows considerable faith in ordinary people who may have no party affiliation, and are fed up. Meanwhile the leaders of PAN and PRD are ready to continue in coalitions not only in Edomex, but also in Coahuila, Guerrero and Nayarit, where elections take place next year. Twenty families, the wealthiest people in Mexico dominate the political and economic life of Mexicans. For them, the game is power politics, not social justice.