03 July 2006

Winners, losers and surprises from the July 2 vote


*I'll refrain from commenting on some parts of the presidential race until after the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) announces the winner on Wednesday.


National Action Party (PAN) sweeps Jalisco. Emilio Gonzalez Marquez bested Arturo Zamora Jimenez of the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI). Enrique Ibarra of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) finished a distant third. Zamora, perhaps the PRI's best hope on any level, flamed out, succumbing to a steady onslaught of PAN attacks. The attorney general's office (PGR) showing up on his doorstep mere days before the election - acting on a denuncia (complaint) about Zamora somehow being linked to fraud in the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS) - no doubt hurt the PRI campaign. Gonzalez, who previously finished a lackluster term as Guadalajara mayor, won by four percentage points after trailing for virtually the entire race. Even though his predecessor, Francisco Ramirez Acuña, alienated many potential voters and seldom speaks to the press, and Zamora boasted of having a strong track record while serving as mayor of Zapopan, Jalisco voters opted for the PAN for the third-consecutive election. Along with the governor's office, the PAN captured all of the Guadalajara-area mayors' races, all but one of the diputado positions and both senate seats. As one panista put it last night: "We won in a lot of places we didn't expect to.

In a total surprise, the PAN retained Morelos inspite of the party's scandal-plagued incumbent.

Split tickets. One PRI election observer in Guadalajara confessed to marking an X for the PRD's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on the presidential ballot. Another observer for the Socialist Convergence party admitted voting for PAN instead of Lopez Obrador (the Socialist Convergence's ally) due to dissatisfaction with the PRD candidate's economic policies. When asked why they carved up their ballots, more than one person responded: Many Mexicans now vote for individual candidates instead of parties.

Not a surprise

The PAN kept Guanajuato. It's perhaps the party's most loyal state.

Peje complains. Once again, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador resorted to playing the victim when speaking last night. He looked bothered (victimized?) and sounded anything but presidential. He says he has a 500,000-vote advantage, but offered no proof. The IFE is not perfect, but it's very well run and professional. That Lopez Obrador would question the result was predictable - and confirms doubts raised by his critics that he's not very democratic. In fairness, PAN would have screamed foul too if it was behind.


Patricia Mercado. She ran on a maverick agenda - and it worked. Her Alternativa party received almost three-percent support, enough to stay registered with the IFE. She built a unique coalition of gays, people concerned with rights and equality issues and left-leaning voters that viewed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the PRD with the suspicion (As one co-worker, a lefty, who voted for Mercado, put it: The PRD is a garbage can for the worst politicians from other parties). Mercado portrayed herself as the face of a modern and responsible left. It worked - and possibly cost the PRD the presidency.


The PRI. On election night six years ago, PAN supporters chanted, "Ariba, abajo, el PRI se va al carajo (The PRI's going to hell)." Perhaps they shouted too soon, but last night's results possibly rendered the party a spent force on the presidential level. The PRI's voto duro (firm vote) crumbled as much of its traditional support shifted to other parties. In a telling fact, the PRI failed to win the popular vote in even one state - not even Oaxaca or the backwards places where the party's strength supposedly endured. In the Congressional and Senate races, the party finished third. (It held majorities in both chambers just nine years ago).

Roberto Madrazo, who always registered sky-high disapproval numbers, deserves much of the blame for his party's demise. He ruthlessly ousted too many potential rivals in the lead up to the PRI primary process. His sordid reputation preceded him in the presidential race. What happens next? Who knows. Many prominent priistas and traditional PRI supporters now back the PRD, which could morph into the new PRI.

The media. Every reporter wanted the race to end at 11 p.m. last night. Instead, the saga endures until Wednesday. This campaign had already started - at least informally - when I arrived in January 2005. This story's getting old and most reporters want to move on to something else.

Subcomandante Marcos. He marched through central Mexico city, denouncing the election yesterday. Nobody cared. Marcos stopped being releavant ages ago. His otra campaña failed to capture the public's imagination. He only made news by wading into the early-May dust up in Atenco, not taking off his mask while visiting a jail in Guanajuato and saying the next president would be knocked off. His movement is pretty much dead. Modern Mexico has passed him by as people care more about getting ahead financially and seeing stabilty continue rather than joining a revolution. Marcos at least has the gullable international left as a fan base. If the PRD loses, the people who abandoned Marcos for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador might return, though.

Mixed bag

The Nueva Alianza. This outfit was nothing more than a mechanism for attacking the PRI's Roberto Madrazo, who kneecapped Teachers' Union president and former PRI vice president Elba Esther Gordillo. Roberto Campa performed poorly in the first debate and his campaign never gained traction. (Based on advertising, though, it appeared to be well funded.) In the campaign's final weeks, the party resorted to begging for just one of the three votes electors would cast - president, congress or senate. It worked. The Nueva Alianza won a little less than five percent of the vote in the congressional races, ensuring the party's survival. It's curious that the Nueva Alianza would borrow its logo from the defunct Canadian Alliance, not exactly an illustrious political party.

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