Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Independent political candidates will take on party professionals in Mexico's 2015 mid-term elections
Mexico will hold the U.S. equivalent of mid-term elections on June 7, 2015, when all 500 seats of the House of Deputies, the lower legislative assembly, will be open for grabs. And for the first time in almost 70 years, independent candidates not affiliated with any political party will be allowed to participate.
In a year which has been devastatingly difficult for the ruling, center left Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the far left Democratic Revolution Party, many are curious to see how independents will fare. Over 120 - potentially a fourth of its membership - have announced plans to run for the Cámara de Diputados.
Independent candidates had to file preliminary paperwork with the National Electoral Institute (INE) by Sept. 26. Today they were free to begin the onerous task of obtaining signatures from at least 2% of the registered voters in the district they hope to represent, a process which must be completed by no later than Feb. 27. Independents also have to pass a means test, demonstrating they have the financial wherewithal to muster a viable campaign; form a so-called political association with at least three members; open a campaign account and name a treasurer; and pay a filing fee to Mexico City.
Last weekend INE reported that the Federal District leads the nation in independent congressional candidates, followed by the State of Mexico, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Sinaloa. The states of Baja California Sur, Campeche, Colima, Morelos, Sonora and Yucatán will have not a single independent contender in the June elections.
Mexico's Congress approved constitutional reforms in 2012 which opened the door to independent candidacies for the first time since 1946, but didn't get around to enacting necessary implementing legislation until last May. In the interim, some states also modified their laws to permit independent local campaigns.
Critics of the new rules point out that the requirements imposed on independent candidacies - particularly collecting signatures from 2% of registered voters in a congressional district - guarantee that only those who are already well financed and well organized have a chance of success.
Many Mexican voters claim to be disgusted with the three major political parties in the country. PRI remains under fire for alleged corruption at the highest level, followed by an anemic response to the Iguala massacre last September and a seriously underperforming economy, which is about to close out the year with yet dismal numbers. Nor has the administration been helped by a rapidly upward spiraling drug war death count.
PRD lost the moral high ground and its self-proclamation as the party of the people when government investigations disclosed that a former PRD mayor ordered the Iguala murders, and that the party's 2006 and 2012 presidential candidate himself rubbed political shoulders with the now incarcerated official during the latter campaign.
Mexico's icon of the Left, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, who founded PRD in 1989, said in November that the party had "lost its moral authority" by reason of the Iguala events. Ten days later he quit, in an act which stunned all spectrums of the national political community
Only Mexico's center right National Action Party remained largely free of scandal in 2014. Whether voters are really prepared to dump PRI and PRD candidates in favor of independents in the year ahead will be known in less than six months, and may prove to be a testing ground for the next presidential race, which undoubtedly will draw a large field of traditional party standard-bearers less than 36 months from now. Mexico already looking ahead to 2018 presidential election - or at least some savvy politicians are.
Dec. 31 update - INE officials announced yesterday that only 52 of the 122 independent candidates who submitted applications to launch a congressional campaign in 2015 were approved. The other 70 were rejected for a variety of reasons, resulting in a field of contenders cut by more than half.
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at 10:31 PM