Main Image: COHA
Mexico’s next presidential election is not due until July 2018, but by mid-December this year the contest has already come to life.
The ruling PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) named its pre- candidate early in the month – although he will not be officially selected until 18 February 2018. This is because their choice, current Finance Minister José Antonio Meade, is required by the constitution to step down from his post six months before the election.
President Peña Nieto claimed that the choice of Meade, who is not a member of the PRI (his grandfather was one of the founders of the right-wing opposition party the PAN, the Party of National Action) , shows how open-minded his government is.
Critics in the local media however saw this as a sign of how unpopular the current administration is. Presumably the hope is that by settling on someone at least notionally independent they will increase their chances of continuing to rule as they have done since 2012.
As journalist Yuriria Sierra put it in a recent Excelsior article: ‘ Meade is the only one with no corruption scandal hanging over him and is seen as an honest and dedicated public servant.’
Mexican journalists also mocked the PRI which, while claiming to be a modern party committed to democracy, chooses a candidate without any kind of primary election. Instead, Meade was directly named by President Peña Nieto, in what is known here as dedocracia, pointing the finger at the person chosen by the current leading figures in the party.
At the moment, it is the leader of MORENA (Movement for National Regeneration), Andres Manuel López Obrador, widely known as AMLO, who is far ahead in the opinion polls. He chose December 12, celebrated throughout Mexico as the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, to formally announce that he will stand, although he has already been crisscrossing the country in an attempt to bolster support for his movement in areas where it is still little-known.
AMLO has been the mayor of Mexico City and this will be his third attempt to win the presidency. MORENA is to the left of the PRI, and AMLO is promising to end the widespread official corruption and the violence related to illegal drugs trafficking.
According to AMLO: ‘Many Mexicans are looking for a solution because what’s happening now is unbearable, with the economic crisis, the crisis in social welfare, and the crisis of insecurity and violence. This is why millions of Mexicans are looking for real change, and turning to MORENA.’
Some here though fear that AMLO is promising too much to too many people, and that his message is being diluted. Left-wing observers see his choice of the Virgin of Guadalupe’s day to announce his candidature as a brazenly populist move.
Prior to helping found MORENA in 2012, AMLO was the leader of the left-wing PRD, the Party of the Democratic Revolution. This party emerged out of the political crisis which followed the devastating Mexico City earthquake in 1985.
The stolen election
PRD’s candidate for the 1988 presidential election, Cuautehmoc Cardenas, is widely thought to had been robbed of victory then by PRI fraud, but since then the party has been unable to break through and win the presidency or gain control of many of Mexico’s state governments.
As a sign of its current weakness, the PRD is now joining forces with the PAN in order to present a joint candidate for the 2018 poll. So far however, the two political groupings, combining under the umbrella of the Frente Ciudadano por México (Citizens’ Front for Mexico) have been unable to agree on a common candidate.
The current mayor of Mexico City, the PRD’s Miguel Angel Mancera is tipped to put himself forward. His period in office as mayor has proved popular with the city’s inhabitants, but he lacks a wider profile beyond the capital, and may yet choose not to run.
Apart from these main figures, there are several independent candidates hoping to win support because of the Mexican electorate’s widespread disgust at the way their country has been governed by the main parties. None of these independents has much support outside their local power bases, but one stands out from the rest.
This is the indigenous spokeswoman María de Jesus Patricio Mártinez, known as Marichuy, who is backed by the Zapatistas of the EZLN. She speaks out for the women of Mexico, describing the rage they feel at being victims of murder, rape and disappearance:
‘We must be able to transform that rage in an organised way in order to go on the offensive to dismantle the power from above, building with determination and without fear the power from below,’ she insists.
Although she has been speaking to enthusiastic crowds throughout the country, local observers have expressed doubts as to whether she can garner the 800,000 signatures required by law to stand as a candidate.
Campaigning for the election will begin in earnest once the holiday season is over. In what is seen as the most open contest for the Eagle Throne in recent years, the months leading up to the election are likely to be bruising if not even more violent.