Katie Putnam, The Mexico Institute’s Elections Guide, 2/20/2012
The candidates and parties made a final push in the days leading up to the “blackout period” that began February 16th and ends on March 30th. Andrés Manuel López Obrador addressed businessmen and agricultural workers, as the PRI established its electoral platform. The Catholic Church was criticized for releasing “voting guidelines,” and Mexico Institute colleagues assess the impact of the PAN’s first woman presidential candidate.
The “pause” in the electoral race
The 2007 electoral reform law established a clear timeline between the end of the primary season (February 16th) and the official beginning of presidential campaigns on March 30th. In the intervening period, candidates are permitted to appear in the press and to be interviewed, but cannot ask for votes or disseminate “election propaganda.” The candidates, political parties, and analysts alike have questioned this “blackout period” largely because the rules released by the Federal Electoral Institute appear vague. Political analyst Leo Zuckerman criticized the “stupid” electoral law for freezing the current standings: he argues that the clear beneficiary is Peña Nieto, since the two trailing candidates, Josefina Vázquez Mota (PAN) and López Obrador (PRD), will struggle to catch up if they cannot campaign for six weeks.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador was busy leading up to the closure, continuing to moderate his image and provide concrete ideas about his potential government. He addressed businessmen last week in Nuevo León with the message: “I am not against you.” Later, he affirmed that his government’s priority would also lie with rural areas: he committed to “rescuing” the campo from the “neglect and disaster” that followed the neoliberal reforms beginning in 1983.
The Green Party officially nominated Enrique Peña Nieto as its presidential candidate this week, as expected. The PRI’s candidate also accompanied Beatriz Paredes as she registered for the Mexico City mayoral race.
The National Political Council of the PRI approved its election platform for 2012-2018. The themes include: democracy, security and justice, economic growth, competitiveness and employment, development and social equality, environment and sustainable development, and Mexico in the world.
The Mexico Institute’s Eric L. Olson and Diana Murray Watts assess the impact of the PAN’s first woman candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, on the party’s chances in a new blog post:
Vázquez Mota’s candidacy may appeal to Mexicans generally and women in particular on several fronts – for its historic nature, and amongst women who feel they are at a political and economic disadvantage amongst the lingering machista attitudes in Mexican society. On the other hand, as Vázquez Mota herself recognized, this election will not be won solely on her gender or appeals to young women. [Her] bigger challenge for her will be creating some separation between herself and the last two PAN governments (which she served), and thus avoid turning her candidacy into a referendum on these two somewhat unpopular administrations. She will need to find an independent voice for her campaign without breaking completely with her party and its base.
The Church and the State
The Roman Catholic Church in Mexico has come under fire for issuing voting “guidelines.” The “pastoral guidelines” do not mention any particular party, but dictate that Catholics should not “choose as a political option those who support or promote false rights or liberties that attack the teachings contained in the Holy Scriptures, tradition and doctrine of the Church.” They should also “be alert to the commitments of the candidates and their parties to respect the foremost of all rights, which is the right to life, from the moment of conception.”
According to The Associated Press, the recommendations seem to be aimed especially at candidates from the PRD, which legalized both gay marriage and abortion in Mexico City The document seems carefully constructed to skirt the ban on all religious groups from engaging in electoral politics. The law prohibits the church from supporting or opposing a candidate or party.
Lastly, The Los Angeles Times has a fantastic primer on the three main political parties in Mexico and why the simple labels of left (PRD), right (PAN), and center (PRI) are misleading.