The Week in Review: 3/26/2012

Katie Putnam, The Mexico Institute’s Elections Guide, 3/26/2012

In this last week before the campaign reopens, a new poll shows Enrique Peña Nieto pulling away from his competition while Reforma highlights each candidate’s energy policy. While all candidates oppose outright privatization of the state-owned Pemex, two in particular favor increasing private participation and greater competition.


The polls

Calerón

When President Felipe Calderón referenced a poll last month showing panista candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota just four points behind frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto, Calderón was accused of meddling in the election and analysts pointed to the wide range in polling results. Two follow-ups to this story occurred this week. First, the Federal Election Institute decided Calderón did not, in fact, violate electoral campaign law with his comments.

Second, a new poll from the company that last month found Vázquez Mota to be only seven points behind her priista competition- the poll with results closest to Calderón’s claim of a 4-point spread- now places her 18 points behind. In the most recent GEA-ISA/Milenio poll of decided voters, Peña Nieto seems to have picked up the five points that Vázquez Mota lost: he increased from 43 to 48 percent while she dropped from 35 to 30 percent. López Obrador held steady at 21 percent. The latest Mitofsky results are almost identical (see the comparison chart here).

Despite the swing from week to week and poll to poll, there seems to be a general pattern. The contest is far from decided, of course: what is clear is that the public opinion polls suggest that Vázquez Mota and López Obrador will enter an increasingly uphill battle when the campaign resumes next week.


Pemex and energy reform

The Mexican daily Reforma published a nice analysis of the presidential candidates’ views on energy reform: all candidates oppose outright privatization but two, in particular, favor increasing private participation in the state-owned Pemex, and greater competition to foster efficiency. According to Reforma:

Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI) points to the challenges of falling production rates and aging technology to stress that the current model is not sustainable. He thus calls for renewed investment in exploration and extraction, as well as for legal reforms that would help to boost the relationship between the private sector and Pemex.   By allowing for shared production and shared risk contracts, as well as greater linkages between the private and public sector, Pemex could potentially access greater capital and better technology, making it a competitive entity.

Josefina Vázquez Mota (PAN), too, emphasizes the importance of running PEMEX as a “smart business.” She argues that meetingMexico’s growing energy demands, developing new exploration and collection technology, and working with private businesses should be the top focus for the next administration. Vázquez Mota also would push to improve current industry practices and for scientific research on alternative energy sources.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD) is more skeptical of private participation. He argues that private involvement would preclude the possibility of continued economic development in Mexico.  Privatization would condemn businesses to paying exaggerated prices for energy, he emphasizes, hurting small and medium-sized enterprises in particular and disrupting economic growth and stability in general. Keeping Pemex as state-owned, on the other hand, enhances its “operational honesty” and efficiency and allows it to carry out (his would-be) government priorities: environmental sustainability, continued exploration of new sources of fuel, and investment in new technology.

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