Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mexico's presidential campaign 2018 already underway

News Analysis - No grass will grow under the Left during new PRI administration
Mérida, July 7 - "Enrique, you're not my president!"

Guadalajara -
Mexican presidents serve a term of 72 months, and are not eligible for re-election. An argument can be made that the system is superior to one of consecutive four year terms. Once elected, presidents here can apply themselves fully to the tasks at hand, without worrying about the next big contest just 48 months away (actually, 30-36 months away when the horrific pressures of endless political fund raising are taken into consideration). Moreover, a newly elected Mexican president can do as he likes without fear of alienating special interest groups. He'll never appear on the ballot again, and he won't have to defend his record to anyone. Eight years may be too much time for anyone to lead a modern nation, and four is not enough. A single six year term strikes a balance. The U.S. should consider it.

Mexico held a presidential election July 1, the first one which coincided with an American presidential election year since 2000. The winner was Enrique Peña Nieto, and he'll be sworn into office exactly four weeks from today. Later this month the Mexican president-elect will travel north to meet with his U.S. counterpart, whom American voters will select on Tuesday. Peña Nieto has said he's prepared to work with either candidate. U.S. officials said generally the same thing about Mexico's four person presidential crop during this country's 90 day campaign last spring. The incoming chief executive is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which enjoyed a lock hold on Mexican politics until it was ousted 12 years ago. Its return to power was the cause for much celebration by old liners.

But not everybody was pleased with the election results, as the image above (taken in Mérida six days after the balloting) illustrates. Mexico's Left - a substantial political force in the nation - staged a series of strong legal challenges to the outcome, firing off scattered electoral fraud allegations. But like birdshot on a windy day, the bizarre claims proved to be amorphous. A federal election tribunal which has final say in such matters unanimously ruled that Peña Nieto had won by a clear majority.

This year's leftist candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, refused to accept the decision. On Sept. 9 he announced that he was breaking away from the three-party leftist coalition which picked him as its standard bearer in the election. López Obrador is forming a new leftist party this month, no doubt to the relief of many fellow ideologues who have grown weary of his endless confrontational strategies.

The person most well-positioned to assume leadership of Mexico's Left is Marcelo Ebrard, governor of the Federal District. He's a popular, charismatic politician who enjoys widespread support in Mexico City, the nation's largest metropolis, and among Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) stalwarts around the country. In July a Spanish newspaper argued that López Obrador was beyond his shelf life, while suggesting that Ebrard was "much more in sync with the realities of Mexico." Ebrard's term ends Dec. 4, three days after Peña Nieto's begins.

Ebrard announced this week that he will seek PRD's top post in 2013, preparatory to launching his own campaign for the presidency in 2018. Last November he deftly yielded the leftist nomination to López Obrador, perhaps because he viewed Enrique Peña Nieto as unbeatable in 2012. But there's no chance Ebrard will do likewise again, should López Obrador mount yet a third effort for Los Pinos (his first run was in 2006, and resulted in a photo finish loss to outgoing president Felipe Calderón). Three weeks ago Ebrard said it would be disastrous for Mexico's Left - which he called its "second national political force" - to field two candidates in 2018. AMLO, of course, may well think otherwise.

The one indisputable fact is that presidential campaigns here, just as in the U.S., never really end.

Nov. 7 - Enrique Peña Nieto will meet with president Obama Nov. 27 to discuss security, migration, human rights and economic issues.

The leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), whose symbol is the Aztec Sun, easily captured second place in Mexico's last two presidential races - both times under the leadership of Manuel López Obrador. It has fared far less well in state and federal legislative contests. But political analysts concur that the Left is alive and well in Mexican national politics.

July 23 - Enrique Peña Nieto's biggest challenges will be economy and environment, not Mexican drug cartels

April 23 - Economic inequality is the primary cause of Mexico's insecurity, says Manuel López Obrador

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