04 July 2010

Coalitions claim early victories


The alliances appear to have toppled the PRI in Oaxaca, Puebla and Sinaloa, although the votes are still being tabulated. The PRI is leading in the other nine states and should take Tlaxcala and Aguascalientes from the PAN and Zacatecas from the PRD. It also is leading in municipal races being held in the PAN stronghold of Baja California - most notably in Tijuana.

Former PRD national executive committee member Fernando Belnauzarán succinctly summed up the early results with the Twitter posting: Without the alliances, the PRI has a clean sweep.

Volkswagen covered in political ads

The multi-party coalitions formed to slay the Institutional Revolutionary Party in six states have declared victory in Oaxaca and Puebla, potentially ending 80 years of PRI rule in two of the country's most notorious political backwaters.

Exit polls give the PAN-PRD-PT-Convergence coalition the lead in Oaxaca. It remains to be seen if the exit polls prove accurate as Oaxaca - where the geography resembles a crumpled-up piece of paper and rural villages are difficult to access - is considered difficult to poll. The state electoral institute also isn't considered especially trustworthy by opposition parties and the PRI is legendary for marshaling its vote.

For its part PRI officials in Oaxaca have already rejected any talk that the party had lost. But political observers and some in the opposition say the PRI was forced to campaign especially hard this time around, suggesting its leadership knew the race would be tight.

Coalition candidate Gabino Cué ran a strong campaign in Oaxaca and seemed able to tap an enormous discontent with Gov. Ulises Ruiz, who developed a sordid reputation for repression and presiding over a crackdown on striking teachers that led to months of violent protests in the state capital. The PRI candidate Eviel Pérez Magaña also came across as being a subordinate of Ruiz - and someone who would be easily manipulated by Ruiz while holding office.

The coalition also claimed victories in Durango and Tlaxcala, but exit polls couldn't confirm those claims - and one poll published by Excélsior gave the PRI the advantage in Tlaxcala.

In the states holding gubernatorial elections July 4, the PRI appeared set to roll. It led in Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Veracruz and Quintana Roo. If the polls prove accurate, it would take Aguascalientes from the PAN and Zacatecas from the PRD.

But losing Oaxaca especially hurts the PRI, mainly in terms of prestige as it had been a state the party had invested heavily in holding. It was deemed so important that the party's main attraction, State of Mexico Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto campaigned on several occasions in Oaxaca. Some local paníistas suggested a deal was afoot in which Peña Nieto would campaign heavily in Oaxaca and back Ruiz for the PRI presidency. Peña Nieto would, in turn, gain the backing of a major PRI state in his bid for the 2012 presidential nomination - and access to the state budget in a jurisdiction with little transparency to promote his candidacy.

The coalition winning Oaxaca sends a message that the PRI - which had rolled on the local level in recent years - is not invincible, which is why the coalition parties will take great pleasure in this potential victory, even though they lost two state governorships. It also sets the stage for a mega-coalition next year in the State of Mexico, where a defeat of the PRI might damage Enrique Peña Nieto's presidential aspirations.

It must also be said that any coalition success saves the jobs of PAN president César Nava and PRD president Jesús Ortega - and makes Andrés Manuel López Obrador look like a hypocrite as he has blasted the PRI as a great looming danger, but did his best to scuttle any anti-PRI alliances. (It's suspected, though, AMLO's tours through the "Usos y Costumbres" communities of Oaxaca might have paid dividends for the coalitions and the same network that got out the vote for him in Oaxaca in 2006 might have been revived. Many of AMLO's people were also less intransigent than him and participated in the coalitions.)

Now comes the hard part for any coalition: Governing. Flavio Sosa, the APPO protest leader from 2006, now goes into the state legislature, sitting in a caucus with the PAN, a party many in the Oaxaca social movements loath - although just perhaps slightly less than the PRI, which is why the coalition appears to have won.

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