05 September 2006

Tribunal: Calderon won

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To no one's surprise, the tribunal adjudicating the July 2 election declared Felipe Calderon the victor, dismissing allegations of fraud and irregularities lodged by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who said in advance of today's ruling that he would not accept a negative decision.

Calderon faces a tough task governing - he won by a slim margin and waged a deeply-negative campaign. He also lacks PAN majorities in both the Congress and Senate. Lopez Obrador, who will probably be proclaimed the "legitimate" president after a Sept. 16 democracy forum in the Zocalo, could also generate headaches, depending on how motivated he and his supporters are.

Winners and losers (A follow up to a previous posting in early July)

Obviously, Felipe Calderon is the ultimate winner - he's now the president elect. It's remarkable that someone with such a thin resume - he finished third in the 1995 Michoacan governor's race and served as energy secretary for less than a year - could vault to Mexico's top job. At this time last year, he barely registered in the public consciousness and Lopez Obrador was riding high in the polls. In fact, former interior minister Santiago Creel was expected to capture the PAN nomination. But Calderon's team ran an effective - and deeply negative - campaign. It worked. The campaign was modern - Calderon would go on TV while Lopez Obrador would stump for votes in the sticks - and it capitalized on Lopez Obrador's mistakes.

The next biggest winner? President Vicente Fox, who unlike his predecessors, actively campaigned for the PAN from the presidency. A rather unremarkably politician, Fox knows campaigning and he actively railed against the perils of populism - read: he indirectly attacked Lopez Obrador. Short of having his wife succeed him, seeing Calderon take office is the best thing that could have happened for Fox. It gives him more of a legacy and Fox will no doubt view this as a thumbs up for his lackluster administration.

And perhaps, at least I gather this from interviews with PAN supporters - at least in Jalisco and Northern Mexico - the Republic's good macroeconomic climate that Fox helped usher in might have kept enough voters from casting ballots for Lopez Obrador's agenda of change. Comments like, "We're not getting ahead, but at least we're not going backwards ... we always used to go backwards," were common - and often uttered by not-so-wealthy PAN voters.

Francisco Ramirez Acuna

Paco, as the Jalisco governor is not-so-affectionately called, astutely backed Felipe Calderon early on - at a time when the PAN establishment was openly pulling for Santiago Creel. Ramirez, bucking conventional wisdom, went against his predecessor Alberto Cardenias - the former Jalisco governor and environment secretary - in the primaries. His reward? Watch Ramirez take a place in Felipe Calderon's cabinet.

Ramirez has presided over a very lackluster regime in Jalisco, taken an endless number of foreign junkets - conveniently being away when controversy surfaces - and spoken sparingly with the media. He also refused to show a constituent a copy of his pay stub, openly violating transparency laws.

But like Fox, Ramirez will be succeeded by a fellow panista, former Guadalajara mayor Emilio Gonzalez Marquez.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

He led the race for months and watched it slip away - and instead of acknowledging mistakes, he cast himself as a victim and floated somewhat bizarre conspiracy theories. His protests and winner-take-all approach potentially hurt his movement and party. Worse, it reinforces the message of the PAN attack ads - that he truly is "a danger for Mexico" - and suspicions he's not a democrat.

Democratic Revolution Party (PRD)

If I wrote this on July 2, I would have declared the PRD one of the election winners. The PRD made record gains in the Congress and Senate and nearly won the presidency, but by blocking the informe and having the PRD-led Federal District government abet the street blockades, the party is hurting its long-term prospects and falling into stereotypes of not being a responsible left-wing option. The partly seemingly is nothing more than Lopez Obrador; why else would it follow him to these lengths? And Cuauhtemoc Cardenas; where is he? He is the party founder.

Mexican democracy

Enrique Krauze spells out the threats to Mexico's young democracy in an excellent Washington Post column.

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