22 July 2006

Dr. Simi strikes out - again

The Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federacion (TEPJF) rejected discount drug baron and want-to-be presidential candidate Victor Gonzalez Torres' bid for a vote-by-vote recount. Best known for his chain of discount drug stores, which sell generic pharmaceuticals dubbed: similares, Torres - a.k.a. Dr. Simi - ran as an unregistered independent candidate, who pleaded with voters to write his name on the ballot. For more than a year, he plastered his image on billboards along with campy slogans like, "Simi and the people will never be defeated," and, "To serve God and the people." He garnered little attention, except when he tried to crash the presidential debates.

Mexican electoral law requires all candidates to affiliate with a political party. Along with keeping Torres out of the race, the Federal Electoral Institute mandate also sidelined former foreign relations secretary Jorge CasteƱeda's independent bid.

The campesino wing of the Alternativa party advanced Torres, a playboy millionaire, as their nominee. The majority of party members, however, opted for Patricia Mercado. After a calamitous feud, the IFE iced Dr. Simi's presidential aspirations. Dr. Simi rebuked the ruling, blaming, among others, big pharmaceutical companies and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who championed the cause of the poor during the campaign, a constituency Dr. Simi also courted. Torres had offered to fund the Alternativa campaign with his own money - something unusual in Mexico, where the IFE often doles out generous subsidies to registered parties.

The Alternativa's campesino wing eventually backed Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Roberto Madrazo, while Mercado, who raised contentious social issues like drug legalization and gay rights in her low-budget campaign, led her party to a respectable fourth-place finish that guaranteed seats in the federal Congress and continued registration with the IFE.

If nothing else, Torres would have added color and comic relief to a far-too-long election campaign. The current aftermath, though, with its protests and clumsy vote-rigging allegations, tops anything Dr. Simi might have brought to the race.

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