Saturday, July 01, 2006

Mexican Election Prt. 2

A rally held in the middle of the Zocalo, Mexico City’s central square, seems to announce the inevitable. Mr. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the city’s former mayor, will win the Mexican Presidential election. As the report in The Economist, “The square, one the world’s largest, is filled with his supporters attending his last campaign rally. His image is everywhere, in picture and caricature. The crowd seems to be unstoppable.”

Mr. Obrador’s principal opponent, Felipe Calderón, also drew tens of thousands to his last rally in Mexico City, held at a sports stadium, but Mr. López Obrador who held the slightest lead in the last polls to be published, more than a week before the election. And running under an alliance of left-wing parties, pre-eminent among them the centre-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Mr López Obrador has led in the polls for nearly three years, until a few months before the election.

Mr. Calderón ran a dogged campaign, coming from behind to establish himself as Mr. López Obrador’s main challenger. And he made it clear that he was the “candidate of jobs”. Since, the main battleground in this election has been the economy, it was smart thing to do. Mexicans broadly agree on social issues and public security. But divisions exist on how to make the country less poor and, in particular, on how to raise the standard of living of the lower and middle classes. This has reprecussions across the border, here in the US, as immigration is an issue in the fall Congressional elections, though interesting enough, or maybe not, the Mexican election has received little commentary in the American media. This is a shame, the issues, how they are addressed, and programs implemented will affect US policy as well.

Mr. López Obrador has tried gain popularity with a promise of “putting the poor first,” specifically wanting to cut government salaries which, for top officials are among the highest in the world, and attack the privileges of the few who benefit from what he calls a corrupt system. Mr. Obrador also has proposed instituting broad-based pensions, though he has not been specific on its implementation. He has spouted catchphrases about “turning inward”, suggesting that “the best foreign policy is a good domestic policy,” which is good nationalism though with either party in a majority, the Mexican Congress will likely to be divided roughly into thirds between PAN, PRD and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) meaning any program will be difficult to pass.
Though, technically, both Mr. López Obrador and Mr. Calderón are in a statestical tie, and I have fancied a mirror US 2000 election tie pitting López Obrador v. Calderón in the Mexican courts, I am sure this will not happen. Prediction: López Obrador by 2 points.

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