06 May 2012

The Quadri combi shifts into high gear

Nueva Alianza rally in Morelia

Talk about a revelation!

Gabriel Quadri, the man polling one percent and representing a party belonging to the powerful SNTE teachers union, cleaned up in the first presidential debate by talking issues.

His performance was reminiscent of 2006, when Patricia Mercado of the now-defunct Alternativa spoke of issues such as gay rights, equality, abortion and drug legalization – all as her opponents attacked each other and ignored her.

Her party won two percent in the election that year, enough for it to survive until the 2009 midterms and elect five lawmakers in Congress. (A civil war ultimately did in the Alternativa, renamed PSD by the anti-Mercado victors) It's survival also meant that it collected tens of millions of dollars in subsidies that are showered on Mexican political parties.

Here's my two cents on Quadri's performance – and let it be said that the "edecán" (the model in the suggestive dress at the beginning of the event) would probably win the most votes for highlight of the night.

Quadri entered the debate with low expectations. He was polling roughly one percent and making headlines by starting his campaign by reef diving in Veracruz and being offered a bulletproof Volkswagen Jetta by presidential security – his campaign was deemed that insignificant. He later ditched the Jetta for a turquoise-coloured Volkswagen van – the colours of his Nueva Alianza party, which draws its name and logo from the defunct Canadian Alliance.

Yet he stole the show.

He especially shone when tackling the issue of energy subsidies, saying correctly that the country spends more money on making gasoline cheap than alleviating poverty through the oft-acclaimed Oportunidades program – meaning the rich collect most of the cash. He later attacked the "segundo pisos," the elevated express lanes in Mexico City and the State of Mexico, saying they benefitted a privileged group: motorists – the same group benefitting from all the toll roads built by Peña Nieto in the State of Mexico, part of the 608 public works projects he takes credit for in his home state.

Quadri did some of SNTE boss Elba Esther Gordillo's dirty work during the debate, when he blasted the radicals in the "normales" (teacher training colleges) who are "La Maestra's" most bitter enemies.

He will likely surpass the two percent threshold, guaranteeing survival for the Nueva Alianza. It also means seats in the Congress and Senate for the party – and, should the vote tally rise, seats for Gordillo's relatives. Gordillo's daughter is running for the Senate in Chiapas, her son-in-law is running for the Senate in Sinaloa and her grandson is on the proportional representation list for the lower house.

It must be said that Quadri looked like a marvel compared to the Nueva Alianza's 2006 candidate Roberto Campa, who scowled through much of the first debate that year and repeatedly attacked PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo – the man who ousted Gordillo from the PRI.

It also must be said that he won – and no one was betting on that.

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