2012 Mexico Election

This blog covered the general election from Jilotepec and Mexico City in June and July 2012

MEXICO ELECTION XVI – Stuttering on

This blog has been live in Mexico covering the general election and the disputed results. This is the last post on the 2012 vote from inside the country (10/07/12)

As the coverage on this site comes to an end, the tangible discontent from many students and young professionals rumbles on but at less frantic and energetic a pace than last week, when there was more of a momentum behind the mass movement. There appears to be a sighed resignation creeping in: that the result is done and that Enrique Peña Nieto will be the next presidente. However, you would be mistaken for thinking that the movement is over. Their calls for a more open society are as sharp as ever and the leader of the #YoSoy132 told me recently that their work has only just begun. They are determined not to be silenced in their drive for more accountability, more responsibility and more democracy in this nation.

The legal challenges from Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), the defeated presidential candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), may be losing a bit of steam. The president of the PAN has accepted and denounced the irregularities identified by the Federal Electoral Institute but has said his party will not back AMLO’s call for the whole set of election results to be contested and officially impugned.

This constant chipping away at the PRI, be it either from the marching students, AMLO’s challenges or from outside media (see videos below) seems to be getting on the nerves of the party’s hierarchy. The president-elect, Enrique Peña Nieto, has rejected allegations that the PRI carried out voting fraud and the party’s president, Joaquín Coldwell, came out on 10 July and denounced those who say his party gave out gift-cards for the supermarket Soriana in return for votes for Mr Peña Nieto, calling those claims “accusations with a large media coverage but without any demonstrable proof”.

It seems that the PRI is getting tired of the continued questioning of the results and criticism of its glamorous leadership. That said, it would help if their man in the hot-seat were a more accomplished television interviewee. Enrique Peña Nieto has been vilified on social networks over the last couple of days because of a couple of bizarre, stuttering performances in recent live interviews with CNN.

Firstly, he was questioned by Christiane Amanpour about the results, the Soriana crisis, the drugs war and trying to pass bills in a Congress where he lacks a majority. Peña Nieto cruises through the first block of posers but then stutters on the fourth and final question, where he pauses erratically during his wavering response (interview in English and Spanish).

He also suffers the same strange answering technique, a faltering reply punctuated with long pauses, in an interview with Fareed Zakaria for the same news channel (clip below). There has been debate as to whether the president-elect was trying to listen to simultaneous translation (a more harmless reason) or rather being fed the answers in his ear and not doing a very good job of covering up the trick (a less transparent way of facing the media). Watching the Amanpour interview makes the second reason the more plausible, as Peña Nieto has no problem with immediate responses for three answers but then inexplicably stumbles slowly through the fourth.

Enrique Peña Nieto already has questions hanging over his head (albeit claims that he firmly denies) over an all-too-cosy relationship with media giant Televisa over alleged favourable treatment for him and smear coverage against his rivals. The odd exchanges above with an international channel highlight once again the many media challenges he faces before he can move into Los Pinos. Although he may have the telegenic looks and the soap-star wife, he is going to have to clean up and tidy up his attitude towards press plurality and public presentation before he takes over in the presidency, as he is expected to do on 1 December.

MEXICO ELECTION XV – Pictures of discontent

Tens of thousands of people are marching through Mexico City in protest at the result of the Mexican general elections, which appear to have propelled the PRI, and their candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, back into power. (08/07/12)

A partial recount of the vote has not appeased the YoSoy132 movement, at the centre of the latest demonstrations. as the march goes on towards Mexico City’s enormous central ‘Zócalo’ square, here is a selection of the signs from recent post-election marches in the city.

Enrique Peña Nieto has denied that his party bought any votes but that allegation, along with media manipulation and voter intimidation are the three main problems that the protest movement has with the president-elect.

‘An ignorant people always choose an ignorant government’

‘Peña Nieto has the right not to read my work. He does not have the right to be an ignorant president. Yours, Carlos Fuentes’

Carlos Fuentes, one of the most successful Mexican writers, passed away in May. But before that he found himself caught up in the presidential campaign after Enrique Peña Nieto incorrectly said that one of Fuentes’ books, ‘La Silla del Águila’, was written by another Mexican author, Enrique Krauze. The president was criticised heavily and Fuentes himself said a lack of cultural awareness was a big enough failing to disqualify Peña Nieto from the top job.

Mexico did not win – corruption did

This is a reference to the slogan Peña Nieto had emblazoned on the stage behind him during the acceptance speech he made on Sunday night – ‘Ganó México’ (Mexico won)

‘The revolution will not be Televisa-ed’

This girl’s placard refers to the allegations (which the PRI denied and which Televisa have also rebuffed) that the latter, Mexico’s biggest media company, gave favourable coverage to Peña Nieto and waged a smear campaign against his left-wing rival, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in return for cash.

‘The only fight you lose is the one you abandon’

MEXICO ELECTION XIV – Students on the march

Mexicans appear to have returned the PRI to power in general elections. (03/07/12)

On Monday 2 July, the day after the former autocratic political behemoth, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, was seemingly put back into power in Mexico (many vote recounts have started after “irregularities” were found), thousands of members of the #YoSoy132 protest movement massed just off Mexico City’s grand Paseo de la Reforma boulevard ahead of a march against the election results, in particular the voting in of Enrique Peña Nieto to the presidency.

Alert! Alert! Watch what is coming: the student fight for Latin America

Mexico without the PRI, Mexico without the PRI

Supporters of the #YoSoy132 movement give their thoughts

MEXICO ELECTION XIII – An organised outcome?

Mexicans appear to have elected the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto to the presidency, alongside many state and local victories for the party. (02/07/12)

These men and women held impromptu debates in the Zócalo, the massive central Mexico City square, last night, as the polls were closing across the nation. They were not too happy about what they saw as the fixed outcome of the elections, even saying that, as a passer-by, I was a “witness and an accessory to this lousy fraud that is happening”.

And also the people have to organise themselves and go out, in all sectors of society, to fight for their rights, even if Andrés Manuel López Obrador wins the presidency. Be they students, peasants, workers, retired, mothers, women, everyone has to fight for their rights so that politics does not get a hold on those who will become the new MPs and senators, for they are people who have got to where they are in an obscure way. The people have to organise themselves on every level and fight, nothing more.

The people are asleep, they are still in bed, they have stopped waking up. Without our young protesters from the YoSoy132 movement, listen up we will be like slaves once again. We will be talking behind the oven, behind the mattress…but you know what friend? Listen to me please, I have a right to be heard, you have spoken, listen to me please, listen to me please, nothing more than a right to speak. You have to sort yourself out. Go on, go on. No he needs to sort himself out. Continue, continue! Only if he gives me permission…Continue, continue! Years ago, friends, the Mexican people stopped speaking to each other…this disunion that we have, in families, in neighbourhoods, in other places…it is time, friends, to awaken our consciences and we will all go together as our friends were saying, we will go together with the Mexican people to awaken and bring the country forward. Thanks a lot.

MEXICO ELECTION XII – Peña to the presidency

Mexicans have voted in a general election. (02/07/12)

A wide selection of exit polls, including the official one calculated by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), show that Enrique Peña Nieto has won the presidency for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) after 12 years in opposition. Voting predictions also paint Mexico overwhelmingly red, for the campaign colour of the PRI, in the local, state and federal elections that have also taken place.

In a televised address at 11.20pm, the head of the IFE, Leonardo Valdés Zurita, said that the more than 49m people who had cast a ballot made this the most ‘voted-for’ election in Mexican history. He gave the preliminary results, based on the IFE’s ‘conteo rápido’ system, as:

Josefina Vázquez Mota, from the National Action Party – between 25-27% of the vote

Enrique Peña Nieto, from the PRI-PVEM alliance – between 37-38% of the vote

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the PRD-PT-CM alliance – between 30-31% of the vote

Gabriel Quadri de la Torre, of the New Alliance party – about 2% of the vote

MEXICO ELECTION XI – Polling station and YoSoy132 camp

(01/07/12)

Voters outside a polling station in Tlatelolco neighbourhood, Mexico City

Official banners that hang outside each polling station

The #YoSoy132 movement’s main camp underneath the Monument to the Revolution

Huge YoSoy132 banner in square in front of camp

Message on banner in front of the YoSoy132 camp

‘We are all one’ message on YoSoy132 banner

‘Politicians – we are watching you’ – YoSoy132 food tent

MEXICO ELECTION X – The PRI’s Rebecca Black factor

Today Mexicans are going to the polls in a general election. (01/07/12)

As millions of people head to the voting booths, or casillas, to what extent will they have been influenced by social media and the parties’ online presence?

There are endless videos for and against all four candidates online. There are parodies, songs, criticisms and conspiracies but perhaps nothing is as surreal as the 14-year-old singer Rebecca Black declaring her support for the PRI, after being flown in by the PRI to the city of Cuernavaca, just south of the capital. This was seen as a bizarre attempt by Enrique Peña Nieto’s party to try to combat the rapid growth of the #YoSoy132 students’ movement viral success by rolling out a big YouTube name to show the party’s ‘youth touch’. It was heavily criticised and it is debatable whether or not the viral singer really knows what she signed up for:

Source: MiGueLPoRTeSMX (1 July 2012)

The use of online campaigning is a well-recognised technique in Europe and in the US but it is still a young method in Mexico. The parties have much preferred tried-and-trusted ‘wall painting’ as a way of connecting with the electorate. However, as you can see below, the governing National Action Party (PAN) has printed banners with links to this particular candidate’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. On one hand, this shows a recognition of the power of social media but, on the other hand, this will surely only be a successful venture in the cities.

The #YoSoy132 movement re-ignited the focus on an online agenda but, outside the metropolitan areas, the Mexican countryside is not really a hotbed of social media activity. With patchy connections to the Internet itself, let alone a political hashtag discussion, the drama of the online student movement has really only remained accessible to Internet-savvy voters. The results later today will show us whether or not it has had managed to move out and spread its message to the regular voter.

MEXICO ELECTION IX – Rundown of polling day

Today Mexicans are going to the polls in a general election. (01/07/12)

The positions up for grabs are:

President, 128 Federal senators, 500 Federal MPs

State MPs, Municipal presidents (Mayors), Seven state governors (including mayoralty of Mexico City)

The parties standing are:

Citizens’ Movement (allied with PRD), Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (PVEM – allied with PRI), Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Labour Party (PT – allied with PRD), National Action Party (PAN), New Alliance (PANAL), Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD)

0800 (All times are Mexico City local = +1 EDT, +6 BST, +13 CST) – The polling stations are opened by president of the station and readied for the day ahead, a process which will take about 15-20 minutes

0815ish – Voting begins once the stations are prepared, including ensuring officials from all parties are present in each station.

Left thumb will be inked for local votes; right thumb for national votes

1800ish – Voting ends (a few northern states are an hour behind and Baja Califonia Norte is on Pacific time) and classification and sorting of the votes begins. All names will have been tallied against registration lists and the president of the polling station will publish the official count and calculations of votes cast in the relevant station outside the booths. The ballot boxes will then be sent to a local counting centre where they will be checked, counted and entered into the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE)’s system from which the official results will be worked out.

1945ish – Preliminary exit polls expected

2345ish – Around this time, quite possibly into the early hours of Monday 2, the IFE will announce the projected results of the election in a televised address.

MEXICO ELECTION VIII – Upset still on the cards

Tomorrow, on Sunday 1 July, Mexico will hold a general election. (30/06/12)

If you were to use the opinion polls alone to choose a winner then Enrique Peña Nieto would have romped home even before he officially declared his candidacy. But if you look wider and harder it is possible to catch glimpses of hope for those wishing to knock the former Mexico State governor from his perch. Speaking with a woman last night in Jilotepec, she rubbished the telephone polls, saying that she never gave an answer when prompted by a calling pollster because “el voto es libre y secreto”. Her actions flew in the face of her own advice, as she told me of her belief that the parties know who has said what in each house and they “will punish you subtly if you say you will not vote for them, by cutting your electricity for example”.

Another woman I spoke to also wrote off the voter surveys. She is a PRD local activist though, so it does serve her party to maintain the hope that the race is still open and that their presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador or AMLO, can still land Los Pinos tomorrow. But she accused the PRI of ‘acarreando’ its ‘supporters’, and that is an allegation I have heard a few times over the past days, even in the traditionally PRI, or priísta state. ‘Acarrear’ roughly translates as bussing people to your rally to inflate the numbers. In Jilotepec I am told all the PRI gives you in return for being driven to their meetings is “a sandwich and a piece of fruit – and the people only go because they want some free food”.

The PRD activist glows as she describes the big campaign closing events of last Wednesday. She says the governing party’s candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, filled the 49,000-seater Guadalajara Chivas football stadium of people who attended of their own accord. She denounces Peña Nieto for filling up national Aztec Stadium in Mexico City, which can hold 110,000 people, with ‘supposed supporters who were bussed in for free’. And she then visibly lights up as she recounts the PRD event. AMLO filled the capital’s massive central square and many side roads as well with more than one million people, all still believing that the man affectionately known as ‘Grandpa’ can swipe the presidency from under Peña Nieto’s nose. She firmly denies the PRD would ever ‘acarrear’.

She says many of the protesters in the #YoSoy132 movement have yet to decide who to choose. The activist gets excited by her own calculations – saying that the race is not over and that there could still be one of the biggest surprises in political history tomorrow. However, I found one reservation that some students in Mexico State have about their colleagues and the #YoSoy132 campaign. They are worried that the movement is being manouevred by hidden vested interests working behind the scenes. That may be true; with anti-PRI pro-PRD interests being the most likely to be involved in any such allegations.

But Mexican politics has functioned in a similar way before and even here in such a príista place the actions of the PRI in its 70-year rule as an autocracy – when election results were massaged – are not quickly forgotten. Some quarters see the coronation of Enrique Peña Nieto as imminent and inevitable and it is still likely that he will win. But you cannot deny that there is simmering belief that the PRI can be defeated once again, even if such a result is unlikely. Hasta mañana.

MEXICO ELECTION VII – Views of students and teachers in Mexico State

On 1 July Mexico will hold a general election. (30/06/12)

A selection of political opinions from students and professors in Jilotepec.

MEXICO ELECTION VI – PRI wall publicity in Jilotepec

On 1 July Mexico will hold a general election. (30/06/12)

Whichever way you turn in Mexico, there are painted walls calling on passers-by to vote one way or another. Here in the traditional PRI territory that is Jilotepec, Mexico State, one name crops up daubed on the bricks more than others.

MEXICO ELECTION V – ‘I was close to dying too’

On 1 July Mexico will hold a general election. (29/06/12)

It is late morning in Jilotepec, a small town 90 minutes’ drive northwest of the capital, and the daily heat is starting to build. The municipal seat of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is quiet the day after the end of campaigning but there are still a dozen young activists meeting in cool rooms in the flowery quandrangle. The 10ft outside walls which enclose the courtyard are coated with the names of different candidates, painted brightly in the PRI’s colours of red, white and green. The huge neat letters bellow at passers-by that the men and women of the PRI “promise to deliver” and that “Jilotepec is our commitment”.

Inside the party’s town headquarters I speak with José Alberto May Montiel, who is the secretary for electoral action of the PRI’s ‘New Mexico’ youth movement. At 24, he is my age and dressed casually with a baseball cap on to shield his eyes from the bright summer sun. He speaks clearly and calmly about his love for the PRI, the once-dominant party that ruled Mexico as an autocracy for more than 70 years until it lost its parliamentary majority and the presidency in 1997 and 2000.

One of the concerns I have heard from Mexicans as the PRI has built had large lead in the municipal, state, governor, parliamentary and presidential polls is that the party that would be put back in power by the people has not changed in its twelve years in opposition. They are fears that it is still the PRI of old, when winks, nods and backhand deals allowed it to maintain itself in power for decades and get rid of any opposition to its one-party rule. José Alberto admits that the PRI of the past “was bad and there was corruption” but he is iron-firm in his belief that the party has cleaned up its image, got rid of all the old problems and has a fresh, youthful team to lead it back into power.

But what will the PRI do when it gets there? José Alberto says the most important issue is to improve the education system and then to get more Mexicans into jobs. And he says this is how Enrique Peña Nieto is going to combat the appalling violence across the country. He cannot find words enough to condemn the policies of outgoing president, Felipe Calderón, of the National Action Party (PAN), who deployed the Mexican armed forces to fight the gangsters. The PRI activist assures me that Peña Nieto would use “more subtle tactics, such as educating the people better and providing gainful employment” to tempt the gang members away from a life of crime. But these are long-term policies: what does he suggest now? “There is no immediate solution” he confesses.

He tells me that the government knows where Joaquín ‘Chapo’ (Shorty) Guzmán is. The most-wanted drug lord in the world, who heads up the powerful Sinaloa organisation, escaped from prison in 2001 and José Alberto is convinced that the PAN, which was in power at the time, facilitated the laughable prison break in which Guzmán made off hidden in a laundry basket.

He closes by recounting a chilling tale from 2010 when Rodolfo Torre Cantú, PRI candidate for governor in the northern state of Tamaulipas, was shot dead alongside two of his advisers. José Alberto was working on Torre Cantú’s campaign and was travelling in the convoy that was attacked by armed men. He tells me of the frightening ambush and looks at me straight in the eye to say “I was close to dying too that day”. Once again, he is certain that it was not a simple gangster attack and he accuses the police of being involved at some level. His happiness from earlier fades slightly and with a huge poster of Enrique Peña Nieto behind him, his gaze ahead suggests that he realises on a very personal level that size of the task facing his beloved candidate to try to bring some semblance of calm back to the streets of his country. But he is sure that the PRI has changed itself and can change Mexico as well if it wins power again this Sunday.

MEXICO ELECTION IV – As-Live Report from Jilotepec, Mexico State

On 1 July Mexico will hold a general election. (28/06/12)

The PRI are favourites to land the presidency on Sunday with Enrique Peña Nieto but this is a general election and there are other parties jockeying for other posts up for grabs across the nation.

MEXICO ELECTION III – The 132 countdown

On 1 July Mexico will hold a general election. (26/06/12)

On 19 June the student protest movement, known as #YoSoy132, held an unofficial third presidential debate. This has never occurred before and showed the power of youth co-ordination. Thousands of students have been rallying and demonstrating during these closing weeks of the long presidential campaign, calling for change and publicising their discontent with modern, sheltered politicians, a perceived lack of honest concern for the ordinary Mexican and ongoing links with the shadier side of politics. As explained in the previous MEXICO ELECTION post, the ’132′ is designed to stand for any person who allies themselves with the sense of dissatisfaction more widely (Chilean student leader Camila Vallejo addressed a ’132′ concert in Mexico City recently) but particularly those who are rebelling against the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and their likely winner in the presidential race, Enrique Peña Nieto.

The former Mexico State governor declined to take part in last week’s debate, and his absence was represented by an empty chair. The three other presidential candidates, PAN’s Josefina Vázquez Mota, the PRD’s Andrés López Manuel Obrador and PANAL’s Gabriel Quadri de la Torre, answered questions vetted by students. There is growing support for the political dissatisfaction and desires for change embodied by the movement but while it could be said that Peña Nieto was out-of-touch and complacent not to feel the need to turn up to the debate, it is also true that the atmosphere was already skewed against him and his policies.

It is a sticky situation for all concerned:

– the students want a new politics to come to the fore and rightfully want more openness, less winking and nodding to vested interests and clear, truthful policies that start at the bottom and work up, not the other way around.

– the politicians each desire and support different ideas: Enrique Peña Nieto is fighting against the corrupt memories his party stirs up but is leading the race by a mile and offers a youthful, populist replacement; Josefina Vázquez Mota, the government’s candidate, is stained by her predecessor’s messy deployment of the military to battle the gangsters and the continuing violence; Andrés Manuel López Obrador is still criticised for the mass demonstrations he led that crippled the capital in the months after he lost the 2006 presidential race by 0.5%; and Gabriel Quadri de la Torre is fighting respectfully but fruitlessly against the other three political giants with his small coalition.

– the people are embittered by many issues, especially the brutality visited upon them by the ongoing battle of ‘gangsters v armed forces v gangsters v police’ and the chaotic gap between the US-educated elite and the (often) indigenous language-speaking rural poor.

Mexico recently hosted the G20 summit and is building on its position as one of the top economies in the world. It is a regional leader and second only to Brazil in Latin American influence. It is a big, powerful country that is tearing itself up internally at the moment. The countdown to Sunday’s election has begun and there will be widespread celebrations if Enrique Peña Nieto wins. There will also be popular discontent and the student protests will probably grow. Not all 115m Mexicans will vote for the PRI but they will all remember the 70 years of uninterrupted power the party once enjoyed. Mr Peña Nieto must try to build on his words of ‘transparency and clarity’ and bring a sense of security to the country. If he does win he will not be able to relax: there are now campuses full of restless students examining his every move.

MEXICO ELECTION II – One last hurdle for PRI

On 1 July Mexico will hold a general election. (19/06/12)

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) governs 20 of Mexico’s 32 states. It has 48% of the seats in the lower house of Congress and has the second-biggest number of senators. In the latest presidential poll, published today for national daily Reforma, its hot-seat candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, had a comfortable 12-point lead over his nearest rival. Ever since the 1997 general election when the PRI lost its lower-house majority for the first time and the 2000 presidential vote, when they relinquished the top job as well, the political behemoth has been chipping away at the opposition in an incessant aim to reclaim its position at the head of Mexican politics. And now it is on the verge of sitting astride the national eagle once again.

But it is not just the survey out today that seems to show the the PRI juggernaut is heading unstoppably back to the top of the country. Enrique Peña Nieto was winning the polls even before he declared his candidacy and has held double-digit leads for many months. But despite the seeming inevitability about the PRI’s return to the steering-wheel, it has not been a problem-free drive. There have been widespread student protests against what is perceived to be Peña Nieto’s backing for big business and media interests and a lack of empathy with the ordinary Mexican on the street.

In fact, tonight the #YoSoy132 movement is holding an unofficial third presidential debate. The campaign has its roots in 131 students at the Ibero-American University in Mexico City who heckled Peña Nieto at a conference. The politician accused them of being “manipulated youth from outside the university” but the demonstrators do actually all study at the institution and showed off their matriculation documents in a video response. The ’132′ is designed to reflect all other Mexicans who are dissatisfied with the former Mexico State governor. The anti-PRI fervour has been inflamed again as Enrique Peña Nieto has declined to take part in tonight’s debate, leaving the three other presidential candidates, PAN’s Josefina Vázquez Mota, the PRD’s Andrés López Manuel Obrador and PANAL’s Gabriel Quadri de la Torre, to battle it out without the favourite in the race.

This is not the first controversial coming together the candidates have had on the campaign trail and the first debate between the four of them was overshadowed when the production team selected a well-endowed model to help the politicians choose who got to speak first. But the two debates they have had were lacklustre. In the most recent one, on 10 June in Guadalajara, the student protests – which could have been a real problem for Peña Nieto – were not raised by the opposing candidates when they could have been tapped into to heap more pressure on the PRI man. Instead, he floated through without entering into any damaging mud-slinging.

Mexico is on the international stage at the moment as it hosts the annual G20 summit during its year as the head nation of the bloc. But far away from the global chit-chat in the beautiful resort of Los Cabos, the stage has been set for a very different kind of summit: an unplanned, student-led debate with the contenders for the top job. And Enrique Peña Nieto has decided not to show, giving himself an unnecessary hurdle on his coast towards power, when he could have seized the opportunity and really given his supporters a political belief to cherish, not just a telegenic smile to accept passively.

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