6 things you should know about Mexico’s elections
Enrique Peña Nieto and his party, the PRI, are expected to win big. But it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.
By MANUEL RUEDA
Mexico will hold presidential elections this Sunday. Here are some things you might want to know.
1. A dinosaur might return
The PRI, a party that some people here compare to dinosaurs because of its long time in Mexican politics, is likely to return to power with its Presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto. The PRI says it has changed and is no longer the authoritarian party that ruled Mexico from the 1930s to the year 2000 through a mixture of “consent, co-option, corruption and cohersion.”
Peña Nieto’s party has benefited from voters’ disappointment with the incumbent PAN party and its unsuccessful efforts to decrease drug violence in Mexico. However, allegations that the PRI paid the country’s biggest TV network for favorable news coverage have cast a shadow on its credibility.
Analysts are also concerned about how the PRI, which oversaw some of the worst financial crises in Mexican history, would handle the economy and how it would interact with other institutions in the country such as the media, courts and of course, drug traffickers.
2. Many posts are at stake
Mexicans will not only be voting for their country’s president. On Sunday voters here will pick 500 congressmen, 128 senators, 6 new state governors and hundreds of local government figures.
A vast majority of these posts are expected to go to the PRI. According to a recent estimate by polling firm Mitofsky Peña Nieto’s party would take somewhere between 265 to 300 seats in the lower house, winning a congressional majority for itself. No Mexican president has enjoyed this luxury since 1994.
Roberto de Alba is a PRI candidate for the Jalisco state legislature. He might win a district that has voted for the PAN for the past 24 years.
3. Vote buying is a big concern
In the days leading up to Sunday’s election, hundreds of allegations of vote buying and other illegal forms of persuading voters to side with a party have emerged. The website Contamos [We count] says that it has received 1,300 hundred reports of violations in the past three weeks, from all over Mexico. This raises an interesting question:
How much of the vote in Mexico is “bought” and how much of it is “free”, or in other words, cast by people who vote for a candidate they like, and not for a candidate who gave them cash and gifts?
At a PRI rally in Jalisco, campaign staff hand out free water cooler bottles. Campaign gifts also include pre-paid supermarket cards, cash and vision exams.
No one in Mexico seems to have a precise answer to this question, as it is difficult to count people who sell their vote. But there are many signs that vote buying is a big business in Mexico.
On Friday for example, the leftist PRD party accused PRI senate candidate Maria Elena Barrera of distributing 1.8 million supermarket gift cards to people who would vote for her and for presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto. A YouTube video shows the candidate promising these gift cards to supporters during a meeting and saying they are “provided” by Peña Nieto. A spokesman for the PRD told Univision Noticias that his party has collected 3,000 of these cards, which provide credit for the Soriana supermarket and show a logo of the CTM a union affiliated with the PRI.
The PRI allegedly distributed these supermarket gift cards to buy votes.
4. Lopez Obrador has said he will accept the result
Presidential elections in 2006 were followed by weeks of protests, and allegations by leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that results were fixed. This time around Lopez Obrador —who is making his second presidential bid— said he would “respect” results. But he told Univision Noticias that a win by the PRI would be like a “collective act of masochism.”
“Voting for the PRI would be immensely damaging for the nation,” Lopez Obrador told our correspondent Edgar Muñoz in an exclusive interview. “It would be more of the same, and more corruption,” the leftist candidate claimed.
Students have protested against media giant Televisa and its allegedly biased election coverage.
5. Young people could play a big role, if they decide to vote!
Thirty nine million people between the ages of 18 and 29 are eligible to vote in Sunday’s elections. There is a total of 79 million registered voters in Mexico. Young people have managed to make these elections more interesting than they initially seemed to be. Students chased and heckled Peña Nieto out of a university, and then formed #YoSoy132 a movement that has demanded fair media coverage and also expressed its opposition to the PRI’s return to power.
But the New York Times’ Damien Cave says that it is still not clear if Mexico’s youth will turn out to polls in massive numbers. “I think turnout is a pretty big question,” Cave told Univision News.
“I see a lot of people who are pretty depressed about the candidates they have to choose between, they’re kind of disappointed with where Mexico is at..and they’re more anti-something than they are pro anything at this point.”
6. And finally, did anyone mention Mario Balotelli?
Elections in Mexico are surely the last thing on this guy’s mind. But the explosive Italian striker could have a -minor- impact on the Mexican election, as Italy take on Spain in the final of the Eurocup. The tantalizing match will take place far from Mexico, in the Ukraine. But some Mexicans might just choose to stay at home and watch two world class teams go at each other, rather than line up at polls to pick candidates which most people in this country are not too impressed with.