Three days before the mid-term, the parties’ campaigns are shut down by law, an obligatory breather before the show on Sunday. All the papers front security-related election news, based on what came out of a meeting of the National Electoral Institute (INE) yesterday.
La Jornada’s lead head goes for the atmospheric shot (“Campaigns close in a climate of high tension”) while most of the others choose close-ups of what happened at the meeting, e.g. Reforma’s No. 3 head: “INE tells governors to guarantee the elections.” Meaning guarantee security.
The parties have non-voting representatives at INE meetings, and apparently all of them were warning the INE that there are a lot of trouble spots in a number of states, prompting worries about the safety of voters and poll workers. The INE councilors said it was the state and federal government’s job to provide security during the vote Sunday, and urged them to do it.
One would think this sort of thing would have been taken care of sometime before now.
The emphasis on security and organization has overshadowed the actual electoral politics of the vote Sunday. True, it’s only a mid-term and mostly not all that significant in the grand scheme of things. But there are some things to watch for:
The PRI’s fortunes. President Peña Nieto has been more than willing to label this election a referendum on his administration. Which means his people are confident of acceptable results, despite the grief he’s been getting over the last year. If his party, the PRI, holds its own in the vote for nine governors and the entire lower house of Congress, we’ll be hearing about it.
The majority quest. The PRI-Green Party alliance is the strongest force in the Chamber of Deputies today, but its majority is razor-thin. If a very strong showing Sunday keeps the president’s coalition over the 50%-plus-one line, i.e. 251 seats, we’ll really be hearing about it.
El Bronco. His real name is Jaime Rodríguez and he’s the first candidate to run as an independent (non-party-affiliated) in a major race (governor of Nuevo León) with a real shot at winning. A PRI member for decades, he probably wouldn’t turn the state’s policies around all that much, but his victory would usher in a new era for independent candidates precisely at a time when the public perception of the political parties is at rock bottom.
Which is why many will vote for him simply because he’s an independent. Many others will vote for him simply because he calls himself “El Bronco.”
The PRD’s fortunes. No party has fallen so far so fast in the public’s eye than the Party of the Democratic Revolution. Born as an alternative to entrenched corruption, careerism, cronyism and public-trough-feeding, it is now the embodiment of all those things.
The clique that has taken over the party has so alienated its rival tribes that most of its founders have bolted the party, as have all three party members elected as head of the Federal District government, i.e. the Mexico City mayor — Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Marcelo Ebrard. (The current mayor, Miguel Ángel Mancera, ran with the PRD but is not a member.)
Astonishingly, this clique — known as the Chuchos, under Carlos Navarrete and Jesús Ortega — rushed to the defense last year of the Iguala, Guerrero mayor who was implicit in, and is behind bars for, the disappearance and presumed massacre of 43 teachers college students. They are still defending the PRD governor of Guerrero, who was forced to take a leave of absence.
The PRD is trying to keep the Guerrero governorship and take back Michoacán, two of the most violence-wracked states. It’s also trying to hang on to its third-place status in the Chamber of Deputies.
Morena’s fortunes. López Obrador’s shiny new party promotes itself as the true alternative of the left, which is probably true, because most of its leaders left the PRD.
If you’re still reading, after that last line, you can think about how Morena’s mission on its maiden voyage is to make enough of an impact — nab enough Chamber seats and municipalities, as well as run respectably in some governor races — to claim momentum, and to help pave the way for a third AMLO presidential run in 2018.
I haven’t heard any benchmark numbers that Morena needs to meet to be considered successful, but I would suspect the bar is set pretty low. After all, they’re starting from zero.
What’s especially worth watching is how Morena (for the National Renovation Movement, which really did start out as a movement until gaining party status last year) fares against the PRD head-to-head. The top venue for that battle will be the Federal District, alias Mexico City, which brings us to the main event:
Whither the DF.? The PRD has had a lock on just about every corner of government in the Federal District since the posts became elected ones in 1997. But that was before Iguala, before the parade of corruption exposés, before the mass exodus of party icons and, most important, before Morena.
The PRD has usually held a majority in the city’s legislative body, the ALDF, so it’s had a fairly easy time of it implementing progressive policies — gay marriage and legal abortion among them. But if Morena (or any other party) can steal just one of those seats, the majority is gone. And given the conflicting ambitions and personal animosity between Morena and the PRD, there’s no assurance that the two will work together as brothers on the left.
Morena can take at least one or two borough chief posts from the PRD, which currently controls 14 of the 16. The borough chief race to watch is in Cuauhtémoc, the city center. There Ricardo Monreal, a former governor of his native state of Zacatecas, is the Morena candidate. If he wins, he will surely run for Mexico City mayor in 2018, and, if he wins that, possibly the presidency in 2024.