Katie Putnam, The Mexico Institute’s Elections Guide, 4/2/2012
The political campaigns reopened on March 30th after a month and a half long pause mandated by electoral law. The PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto commands a 15-point lead in the polls, while the PAN’s Josefina Vázquez Mota struggles to keep her party united behind her and the PRD’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador seems unable to expand his reach beyond his core supporters.
Adding to the intrigue reminiscent of the PRI’s long reign and the images of a poor showing at Vázquez Mota’s formal party nomination ceremony that we discussed last week, a leaked audio tape allegedly reveals the presidential candidate accusing members of President Felipe Calderón’s cabinet of spying on her phone calls. While reviewing campaign strategy over the phone before the party’s February primary election, a woman thought to be Vázquez Mota tells an aid to send a “warm hello” to Public Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna and government spokeswoman Alejandra Sota, both fellow PAN members and who she claims are listening in on their phone conversation. The caller is heard to say the public security chief is tapping her calls instead of those of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The PAN quickly sought to pin the wiretapping focus on the PRI, suggesting that the party had an interest in (and a record of) spying on political opponents. Regardless of who is wire-tapping who, the tape’s revelation has fanned concerns about divisions within the PAN. As Vázquez Mota seeks to bridge the gap with Peña Nieto, the infighting may make independents wary of supporting the party.
The PRD, on the other hand, seems strongly unified behind López Obrador. The problem seems to be that he is struggling to attract voters beyond this core. Despite the fact that 45 percent of Mexicans have a positive opinion of the two-time presidential candidate (44 percent have a negative opinion), he has been unable to rise above about 21 percent support. Perhaps this is because the majority of voters are weakly committed to him: just seven percent have a “very positive” opinion of López Obrador, according to a newly released Parametría poll.
It will be interesting to see if he, or any of the other candidates, has a shot at rallying the large numbers of undecided voters. Two recent polls found the undecided to represent 32-34 percent of total voters, suggesting much can yet change in this race.
With the polls consistently showing Peña Nieto well ahead, some analysts are beginning to speculate whether the PRI will also do well enough in congressional elections to muster an outright majority and finally pass several much-needed reforms. The past two PAN administrations faced heavy partisan opposition to their economic reform packages in the Congress; if the PRI can reclaim the presidency and the legislature, The Economist is hopeful that more reforms will move forward. That is certainty the idea that Peña Nieto is promoting with his slogan: “government that delivers”.
The upcoming televised debates will hopefully illuminate more of what his policies will entail. Peña Nieto has given some indication (see last week’s comparison of candidate energy policies), but has thus far been inclined to more general statements about progress than the “finer details of policy, as The Economist notes.