Latin America's political map could find itself being redrawn as 12 of the region's countries hold presidential elections between November 2005 and the end of 2006. One of the key issues - of concern by the Bush Administration- is whether the recent left-wing trend in the region will continue. And, if it does, what will be the likely nature of any new left-leaning government. Will newly elected leaders be of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez variety or closer to Brazil's moderate President Lula?
The current spotlight is on Mexico as Mexico's presidential candidates are making a final push for votes ahead of the bitterly contested 2 July election. Conservative Felipe Calderon ended his campaign in Mexico City, saying his opponent would push Mexico into crisis. Mr. Lopez Obrador holding his final rally in the capital on Wednesday ends a campaign marked by insults on all sides and rising violence. Eleven people, including four police officers, were killed over the weekend in the southern state of Guerrero.
The left-leaning former Mexico City mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has actually been in the lead of opinion polls for much of the campaign. Recent surveys, however, show him pushed into second place by Felipe Calderon of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) who has promised to maintain the pro-market policies of President Fox.
The biggest obstacle for Mr. Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) has been trying to prove that it has appeal outside the capital. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for seven decades until it lost power to Mr. Fox, is hoping to return to government with its candidate Roberto Madrazo, currently in third place. It is highly unlikely that PRI and Mr. Madrazo will push to the top of the opinion polls and win the election. It is also highly unlikely that if elected Mr. Lopez Obrador and PRD will push through radical economic reform, due to the simple fact that the Mexican economy is tied so closely with that of the United States. The big unknown is how the Mexican citizen will vote.
As the campaign ends for all parties, each should be happy with their supporters, their message, and though there has been tension and occasional violence, at least pleasure that violence has not been the main issue; rather the issues of governing a country.
Coverage on the Mexican election on July 2nd is forthcoming.