Katie Putnam, The Mexico Institute’s Elections Guide, 10/3/2011
Leading presidential contender Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI) answers criticisms of his crime statistics as former PRI leader Beatriz Paredes considers entering the Mexico City mayoral contest. The PAN and PRD face questions on the divisive abortion debate, and Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard (PRD) continues to develop his environmental platform.
There were two interesting stories surrounding the PRI in the past week. First, leading presidential contender and former governor of the State of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto addressed The Economist’s criticisms of the crime statistics from his time as governor. In his last state of the state address, or informe, Peña Nieto claimed that the murder rate in the State of Mexico had fallen by more than half during his six-year term. The Economist refuted the data: “the numbers listed in Mr Peña’s informe are indeed the official figures, but they make no mention of a statistical revision in 2007 which saw the murder rate halve overnight.”
To his credit, Peña Nieto acknowledged the inconsistency:
“The figures underwent a methodological modification in 2007. The criticism that The Economist makes is that it is technically inconsistent to compare figures derived using different methodologies. I share this view. In a democratic society, we politicians have to accept criticism, especially when it is founded.”
Presumably, Peña Nieto wants to diffuse this issue before the campaigns heats up, though The Economist advises observers to expect “plenty of arguments about which of these data sets is the more reliable” on the election trail.
Second, Beatriz Paredes, the former head of the PRI, confirmed her interest in running for mayor of Mexico City in 2012 on September 26th. Paredes, who ran against Marcelo Ebrard in 2006 for the same post, was the most recognizable potential candidate in a poll from July 2010; 59 percent knew of her and 42 percent agreed that she was a “good politician.” She has a strong following within the party, in part due to her involvement in indigenous and women’s issues, including reproductive rights. Her leadership was considered instrumental to the PRI’s 2009 congressional sweep. (See more on our candidate profile of Paredes.)
The PAN leader in Mexico City, Obdulio Ávila Mayo, criticized what he considers her destape (or unveiling) by Peña Nieto: “It confirms that the “new” PRI continues its old authoritarian and anti-democratic ways.”
In a new poll, the public reaffirmed its commitment to the fight against organized crime: 70 percent of respondents polled in an extensive survey of 7,400 citizens are in favor of continuing the fight. Unfortunately for President Felipe Calderón and the PAN, only 26 percent believe that the Calderón administration is winning that battle.
Social issues also broke into the political debate this week, as the Mexican Supreme Court let stand right-to-life amendments to the Baja California and San Luis Potosí state constitutions that say life begins at conception and effectively bans elective abortions. President Felipe Calderón weighed in through a presidential communiqué in favor of defining conception as the beginning of life.
These new laws are part of a backlash to a Mexico City measure, upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008, which allows abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy. Since then, at least 16 of Mexico’s 31 states have passed laws that severely restrict abortions. The Economist notes that this dispute “again underlines the vast difference between Mexico’s liberal capital and its conservative countryside,” which will increasingly come into focus as Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard continues his presidential campaign.
Ebrard also continued his environmental platform, introducing all-electric taxi cabs in the smoggy capital city.