The Week in Review: 6/4/2012

Katie Putnam and Eric L. Olson, The Mexico Institute’s Elections Guide, 6/4/2012

López Obrador

In a remarkable turn of events, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD) appears to dramatically narrow the gap with frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI) in a new poll from Reforma newspaper. While other similarly credible polls put him much further back, it seems that the student protests and recent corruption scandals are benefitting the PRD candidate and may have hurt the PRI candidate.

 

The polls

A Reforma poll released on May 31 places López Obrador just four points behind Peña Nieto, with 34 percentage points compared with his rival’s 38 points. This represents the closest margin in the race so far, and a surprising turn-around for the leftist candidate that had struggled to attract more than 20 percent support as recently as a month ago. The closest spread was a GEA-ISA poll in February, but it was the PAN’s Josefina Vázquez Mota who was then the challenger. She has continued to lose support since the campaign officially began at the end of March; the Reforma poll found her at 23 percent.

While Reforma has a highly respected polling operation, it should be noted that other credible polls from the same time period place López Obrador much further behind Peña Nieto. Mitofsky, for example, has Peña Nieto ahead by 17.5 percent, while Parametría has him winning by 18 percent and GEA-ISA gives Peña Nieto a margin of 21 points. The polls may disagree on the spread, but it is clear that López Obrador currently presents the greatest challenge to Peña Nieto; all for the first time find López Obrador ahead of his PAN rival.

 

Contributing factors

Yarrington

In addition to the student protests we discussed in last week’s article that seem to be damaging Peña Nieto in favor of López Obrador, support for the leading candidate may have eroded somewhat after a series of arrests were made and accusations levied against PRI politicians. Tomás Yarrington, the PRI governor of Tamaulipas from 1999-2004, who was being investigated by the Attorney General’s Office since January, has been accused (though not formally charged) of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from drug cartels. The case took on new relevance last week when U.S. federal prosecutors filed two civil forfeiture cases seeking to seize $7 million in Texas properties allegedly bought by Yarrington and his associates. The PRI suspended Yarrington’s party membership for the course of the investigation.

The PRD and the PAN candidates immediately jumped on news of the U.S. suits against Yarrington as evidence of their contentions that the PRI has not reformed and that the election of Peña Nieto would mean a return to the corruption and cronyism of past PRI governments.  Why did the PRI wait to act against Yarrington until there was a case opened against him in the United States?

While the evidence is not entirely clear, it would appear that this line of argument is beginning to chip away at the carefully crafted image that Peña Nieto and the PRI had developed for the campaign. Interestingly, it is López Obrador who appears to have benefited the most from the student protests and the Yarrington scandal, and not Josefina Vázquez Mota.  Whether these two factors are enough to take down the frontrunner in the four short weeks remaining before election day on July 1 is a matter of great debate and speculation.

For their part, Peña Nieto and the PRI, who remain firmly in first place as the homestretch begins, seem determined to stay focused on their message of competence and reliability in government and a brighter future for Mexico.

 

Other news

Mexican immigrants in Los Angeles have opened a campaign office for the PRI for the first time, and Al Jazeera reports on the lack of candidates in many local Mexican elections due to intimidation from organized crime.

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