Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mexico poised to vote, amid heavy security

But how many will turn out?

*Update Sunday, July 1, 6:00 p.m.* - Polls throughout the nation have closed or are now in the process of doing so. Everybody's waiting for the first numbers and exit polls.

Mérida, Yucatán --
Mexicans go to the polls in less than 12 hours to select their next president. One of four contenders will replace outgoing PAN chief executive Felipe Calderón. The new leader will be sworn in Dec. 1, allowing five months for an orderly transfer of governmental power at the federal and state level.

Not only will Los Pinos, Mexico's White House, change hands, but governorships in 7 of 32 states are open for grab, as are senate and federal deputy seats. Mexico has a bicameral legislature, exactly like the United States, consisting of a Senate (Senado) and a House of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados). The entire national congress will be elected tomorrow.

By the numbers, Mexicans will be choosing:
1 president of the Republic
128 senators (the same as their U.S. counterparts)
500 federal deputies (the equivalent of U.S. House of Representatives members)
7 governors
579 state legislative members
876 mayors

Almost 700 foreign observers from 69 members of the world community will participate in Sunday's election, to monitor and report apparent irregularities. The director of Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute said that tomorrow's electoral process will be perhaps the most carefully watched in the nation's 202 year history. "We guarantee that the election will be carried to completion with complete security, honesty and integrity," he said.

Over 143,000 polling places will be staffed by thousands of Mexican citizens representing the nation's four major political parties (All about Mexico's presidential candidates).

The big question is, how many will show up? About 84 million people are registered, but recent contests have been characterized by dwindling participation. In 1994, 77% voted. In 2000, the year Vicente Fox kicked PRI out of Los Pinos for the first time in 71 years, 64% turned out at the polls. And in 2006, the year Felipe Calderón squeaked by leftist PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who enters election day far back in second place (Mexico's campaign closes), only 58% voted. Last weekend, a Mexican national columnist predicted that participation this year might be no more than 50 million people.

There will be a heavy military presence in those regions of the country most affected by drug war violence. But here in Mérida, a world City of Peace, there is not the slightest appearance of change on the streets tonight. The only noticeable difference, perhaps, is that nationwide, alcohol sales have been cut off in all but a few excepted establishments.

The electoral institute has promised to have the final results before midnight, July 1. Once certified, they will be announced to the waiting nation of 112 million by president Calderón.

MGRR will report election results Sunday evening, as they become available.

Mexico's four parties contesting the 2012 election
The parties in order of candidate preference (beginning with PRI), based upon a final poll published June 27. In terms of theoretical political orientation they represent the Center Left, Far Left, Center Right and Liberal. In actual practice such labels mean considerably less here than they do in many countries, however.

Note: In the sparkling terraza of the house just behind mine, a VERY boisterous group of teenage girls is celebrating the 18th birthday of one as I write this at 10:00 p.m. (Mexicans do know how to party). Periodically, they cheer for the candidate who they hope will prevail tomorrow. But out of respect for, and in deference to, the mandatory Period of Pre-voting Silence (Inicia periodo de veda electoral), I think I'll not tell you who he -- or she -- is.

Here's your last chance to see what is by far my most favorite spot of the electoral season. And even tonight, when all partisan campaigning is strictly forbidden, it's legal to display it:

Mexico's proud children

All about Mexico's election, 2012
Mexico's presidential campaign begins
Violence Over an Underpass Underscores Reality of Mexican Gloves-off Politics

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