Commentary from the Guadalajara Reporter, July 15, 2006 edition.
The July 2 election revealed several different Mexicos, which voted according to regional preferences, not unlike countries like Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, where the main political parties claim local power bases and often fail to win nationwide support.
The U.S. has its blue, Democratic states on both coasts and a red, Republican interior flyover country, in the words of liberal pundits. Mexico now features something similar. The conservative National Action Party (PAN) painted the northern and western states blue while the left-wing Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) colored the center and south yellow.
Mexico's regions vary greatly. The north boasts fast-growing border towns, industrial development, a better-educated population and higher per capita GDP. It's generally conservative and Catholic, views free markets favorably and has never shown much zeal for revolutionary politics. When free trade arrived, it was better positioned to take advantage of it. Jalisco and the zone west of the capital, while not the same as the north, share many similar attributes.
The south, meanwhile, lags badly behind. It's more indigenous and agrarian. Memories of revolutionary figures like Emiliano Zapata still loom large. Little development took hold in the region; caciques (strongmen) dominated local political scenes. Not surprisingly, PRD candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who dubbed his coalition, "For the good of all," started his campaign in Mexico's poorest town, Metlatonoc, Guerrero, where the standard of living is comparable to Sub-Saharan Africa.
According to Cesar Velazquez, a researcher at Iberoamericana University in Mexico City, income and education levels explain voting tendencies better than cultural or ideological leanings.
"It's not so much a cultural or ideological question who votes PAN. It's a question of education and income."
Voters with larger incomes and more education overwhelmingly opted for PAN. Most lived in Mexico's northern and western states. (PAN beat the PRD by nearly three-to-one margin in Jalisco, Guanajuato and Nuevo Leon.)
Mexico City, a mix of chic neighborhoods, impromptu slums and everything in between, overwhelming went PRD. Partly, Velazquez said, due to its intellectual set, but also the Federal Districts abandonment of the PRI. The PRD essentially coopted the old PRI
corporatist structure over the past 20 years and has effectively mined it for votes.
The PRI ironically received reasonable levels of support in all parts of Mexico but failed to win a majority in any state. As the party becomes increasing irrelevant on the presidential level, many of its sympathizers will no doubt drift towards the dominant party in their region; priistas in the South share more in common with the PRD than priistas in the North, where state governments often alternate between PAN and PRI rule.
Out of the PRI's recent election debacle a two-party system should emerge. And it will continue splitting the Republic for some time to come.