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Column 040212 Wall

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mexico's Presidential Election Race (Officially) Kicks Off

By Allan Wall

On March 30th the 2012 Mexican presidential election campaigns officially began.

Yes, the candidates had already been chosen, and yes they were already being sized up by the Mexican electorate, and yes they were doing things related to campaigning. But, based on the strict rules laid down by Mexico's IFE (Instituto Federal Electoral), they were not supposed to officially campaign.

On March 30th, however, they were allowed to officially begin their campaigns. And they started off with a bang.

Enrique Peña Nieto [45] (photo here) is the candidate of the Compromiso por México, comprised of the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) and its smaller Green Party partner, the Partido Verde Ecologista de México.  The candidate was born in the city of Atlacomulco in the State of Mexico, and was governor of that state from 2005 to 2011.

Peña Nieto kicked off his campaign one minute after midnight on March 30th, in the city of Guadalajara.  Later during the day, speaking to the business community, the candidate promised to triple Mexico's economic growth, to between 5 and 6%.  Peña Nieto assured his audience that it's not impossible, pointing out that some countries in the region have had growth rates 2 or 3 times higher than Mexico's.  Still, it's a big promise he may not be able to fulfill.

Josefina Vazquez Mota (photo here) is the candidate for the Partido Acción Nacional, the PAN.  She was born in 1961 in Mexico City.  In the 2006 election, she was Felipe Calderon's campaign manager.  From 2006 to 2009, she served as Secretary of Education in the Calderon cabinet, after which she served as a representative in the Mexican Congress.

Josefina kicked off her official campaign at one minute after midnight in Mexico City.

Later in the day the PAN candidate visited La Patria es Primero, her old elementary school, where she promised to improve education.  She's promising to somehow "institutionalize" the relationship between the SEP, Mexico's education bureaucracy, and the powerful SNTE (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación) union.  Easier said than done.

When she called for longer school days, the schoolchildren in attendance expressed their disapproval with a long "NOOOOO."  Well, they can't vote now, can they?

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador [59], known by the initials AMLO (photo here) heads up the Movimiento Progresista, an alliance of parties led by the PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática), the Labor Party (Partido del Trabajo, or PT), and a party called the Movimiento Ciudadano.  AMLO was the PRD candidate six years ago who was barely edged out by the PAN's Felipe Calderon and refused to accept defeat.

AMLO kicked off his 2012 campaign in Mexico City, and then went to the city of his birth, Macuspana, in the eastern Mexican state of Tabasco. The candidate promises to "deliver my heart to the people of Mexico."

Gabriel Quadri de la Torre (photo here) is the standard-bearer for the Nueva Alianza, or PANAL, a party which has only existed since 2005.  The party was founded and is run by Elba Esther Gordillo, president of the aforementioned SNTE education workers union.

Candidate Quadri, born in Mexico City in 1954, is a civil engineer/economist,  and currently a doctoral candidate in economics  at the University of Texas.

Quadri had the most unusual campaign kickoff, by donning a diving suit for a highly-publicized dive into the Gulf of Mexico, near the Isle of Sacrifices off the coast of Veracruz.   It had to do with the environment.

The polls put Peña Nieto in first place, Josefina Vazquez  in second, AMLO in third, and Quadri in a distant fourth place.

The actual voting is scheduled for July 1st.  The winner then has 5 months to wait until taking office on December 1, replacing current president Felipe Calderon.  In the Mexican system, a presidential term lasts six years with no reelection permitted.

Speaking of President Calderon, he's supposed to stay out of the election and not campaign for Vazquez Mota.  This is easier said than done, as anything he says or does could possibly be construed as endorsing the candidacy of his fellow PANista.

Besides the presidential race, there are congressional elections scheduled for July 1st.   All 128 members of the Mexican Senate are elected to 6-year terms, and the 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies will be chosen.  Also, six states will hold gubernatorial elections.

It looks to be an interesting election.

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Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at http://www.allanwall.info/.


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