Katie Putnam, The Mexico Institute’s Elections Guide, 3/19/2012
The PAN attempts to downplay a discouraging number of resignations and controversy over possible scandals and croynism, as Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD) defends his objectives to Playboy and Enrique Peña Nieto’s campaign chief discusses economic policy under a potential PRI government.
The PAN had a difficult week, which Reuters attributes to “splits rattling” the party in the lead-up to the election. First, its presidential candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, accepted the party’s official nomination before a half empty stadium. Vázquez Mota at first denied that the event was under-attended, blaming the sun for the giving the impression of empty seats. The party then attributed the turnout to a coordination error rather than a lack of enthusiasm. While it is unwise to attribute too much importance to a single event, the low turnout hints at possible problems within the campaign, whether due to poor organization or low morale.
Second, the PAN has been accused of a number of corruption scandals, prompting several high profile party stalwarts to decry the cronyism and fraud that the party long fought against. The son of former PAN presidential candidate Manuel Cloutheir, Manuel Clouthier Jr., quit the party last month: “Instead of everything [the government] touches turning to gold, it corrupts everything it touches.” He is one of many critical of the way in which the party selected its candidates for the federal and local elections being held on July 1st. According to Reuters, this group alleges that “voter fraud, buying favors and even plots with the PAN’s arch rival, the PRI, marred 47 – or nearly one in six – of the internal candidate selections in half the states of the republic.”
In addition, PAN lawmaker Javier Corral, who lost a primary race for a Senate seat in Chihuahua, accused his two competitors of trucking in “busloads of bribed voters” in order to best him. The party’s first ever state governor, Ernesto Ruffo, and another elder statesman, Luis H. Alvarez, both signed a letter protesting Chihuahua’s selection process.
In Monterrey as well, long a party stronghold, the scandal surrounding Mayor Fernando Larrazabal (PAN) continues to reverberate. After the cartel-instigated attack on a local casino that killed 52 people, a video surfaced of the mayor’s brother receiving a large sum of money in a gambling house long suspected of involvement in protection rackets. The PAN urged Larrazabal to step down during the investigation following his brother’s arrest; he refused, and in Februrary was placed on the party’s candidate list for a congressional seat. PAN stalwart Rogelio Sada quit the party in protest over the scandal: the party, he said, had been infiltrated by people who “put their own interests ahead of the party.”
Critics also see evidence of nepotism in the plurinominal list (discussed at length in our article last week). The five safest seats are all relatives of President Calderón or close confidants: these include his former finance minister Ernesto Cordero, widely considered Calderón’s favorite in the PAN primary; Calderon’s sister; his former private secretary; and a relative of his wife.
Mitofsky pollster Roy Campos believes these divisions do not bode well for Vázquez Mota’s electoral chances: “[she] needs to be gaining support, not putting down in-house strife.”
An interview with Andrés Manuel López Obrador was published last week in the Mexican edition of Playboy, in which he denies that he is “motivated by a lust for power.” Contrary to accusations from his critics, López Obrador said he is not solely ambitious and a self-interested leader. According to the interview, the protests he lead in 2006 were to draw attention to the fraud he believes marred the election results, not to glorify himself. The difference between the 2006 and upcoming 2012 elections, he added, were that the left now has much greater organizational capacity. For an excellent background on this, see the new piece by Eric L. Olson and Diana Murray Watts on López Obrador and his MORENA network here.
In other news, author and intellectual Carlos Fuentes told the press he is considering supporting López Obrador. He said he questions the PRI’s ability to relieve the country of its violence, arguing its track record suggests just the opposition. While he respects the PAN’s Vázquez Mota, he considered President Calderón to be attempting to perpetuate himself through her candidacy.
Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidential campaign chief Luis Videgaray told reporters that a victorious PRI government would seek to tap foreign capital markets more and push ahead quickly with energy and tax reforms.
In an interview with Reuters, Videgaray detailed a range of economic reforms that suggested that “the PRI would be far more market-friendly in power than it has been since 2000, when it became the opposition party.” The PRI would push for flexibility in labor markets, greater domestic competition, and fiscal reform to boost tax collection and lower the country’s dependence on oil revenue. It would also create a domestic development bank to promote commercial lending.
Many of the reforms were proposed by PAN governments under Felipe Calderón and Vicente Fox, yet stalled in the PRI-dominated legislature.