Mexicans go to the polls to elect a new president
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By Chris Covert
Mexican citizens go to the polls Sunday to select a new president of the republic as well as the entire slate of national deputies and senators.
Little drama was to be had throughout the duration of the political campaign as the frontrunner, Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) candidate Enrique Pena Nieta has been from the start maintained a double digit lead over any of his closest rivals, and currently enjoys a 16 percentage point lead over Partido Revolucion Democratica (PRD) candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
That lead by the telegenic Pena Nieto has held despite several adverse campaign events including a meeting with university students last May who protested an action his state police took to quell a demonstration in Mexico state early in his term as governor in 2006. Two individuals were killed by Pena Nieto's security forces, but it has been charges of sexual assault of female protesters in his state police custody which has dogged him since.
Another problem for Pena Nieto throughout the campaign was his ties to former PRI president Carlos Salinas de Gorari, widely considered even in PRI circles one of Mexico's worst presidents. That nexus Lopez Obrador hammered on Pena Nieto, even bringing it up during the first presidential debate in May. Those charges failed to stick, nor did they produce any kind of bounce in the polls for Lopez Obrador.
The ghosts of PRI governments past, while seeming to haunt the candidate did not hurt him in the polls at all. PRI held sway over Mexican politics for nearly 70 years before being swept away in the 2000 and then the 2006 election, which placed Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) presidents in Los Pinos, the president's official residence, for the first time ever.
International and the Mexican leftist press have been touting PRI's return as a direct result of current president Felipe Calderon's war on the cartels he launched back in 2007. His signature solution, using the nation's armed forces to confront cartel operatives in the field has been roundly condemned and then touted as the reason why PAN will not return to Los Pinos. That is probably true,but for a counterintuitive reason.
A recent survey by the Pew Foundation on Mexican citizens' attitudes indicated that Calderon's strategy has been the right one politically. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said they supported the use of Mexican armed forces against the cartels. Concerns for human rights in those surveys abound as the number one problem with the use of the nation's military. However, little doubt exists that Calderon did exactly the right thing in deploying his army against the cartels
That Mexicans want a change in government because of Calderon's actions, popular as they are, probably has more to do with the PRI's ruthlessness in dealing with political opponents in the last 30 years before the 2000 elections.
Pena Nieto has said publicly he would continue using he extremely popular armed forces to fight the cartels, but the basic strategy would change. What the change would entail is anyone's guess, and will more likely be better represented next September when the candidate for Pena Nieto's Secretaria de Defensa Nacional (SEDENA), the controlling agency for the Mexican Army leads the military parade during Revolution Day.
As of June 27th, the final day of campaigning, Pena Nieto has 43.6 percent of the vote with Lopez Obrador with 28.1 percent, and PAN candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota with 25.2 percent of the vote.
According to data supplied by Mitofsky, PRI popularity will likely hold as PRI may receive a comfortable majority in the Chamber of Deputies.
Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com
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