Katie Putnam, The Mexico Institute’s Elections Guide, 8/8/2011
There have been interesting developments in the electoral race in recent weeks, especially within the PAN and PRD parties.
First, the field of contenders has narrowed. Two of the candidates, Labor Minister Javier Lozano and Social Development Minister Heriberto Félix, have officially bowed out of the race. Both were polling far behind their party rivals. Lozano had 3.9 percent support amongst PAN members in May 2011, and Félix had polled at 2.7 percent.
Two other candidates have confirmed their intention to continue in the race: Alonso Lujambio, the Minister of Education, and Emilio González Márquez, the Governor of Jalisco, both told journalists they would vie for the nomination. Lujambio alternates with Ernesto Cordero, the Finance Minister, for third place among PAN candidates in opinion polls, whereas Gónzalez has so far polled the lowest among the remaining contenders.
The current frontrunner, Santiago Creel, who most recently served as head of the PAN faction in the Mexican Senate, launched a tour of all 32 Mexican states. Though he will not be campaigning, as he has reiterated to the press, his speaking engagements on the tour have so far kept his name in the news.
Recent opinion polls show that Josefina Vázquez Mota, the head of the PAN delegation in Congress, is steadily catching up to Creel. In a recent Milenio poll, Creel was still more recognizable (71 percent compared with Vázquez Mota’s 55 percent) but Vázquez Mota was the candidate considered most “preferable.” Thirty percent responded that she should be the candidate, beating Creel’s 23 percent.
There has been much discussion around Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero, who has reiterated his interest in being the PAN candidate but who has so far not stepped down from his official post. Some analysts suggest that perhaps he is waiting to deliver on the budget for President Felipe Calderón, which is due September 8th, before returning his focus to the PAN’s nomination. Others believe he will leave by the middle of August. Legislators have encouraged his resignation, in order to comply with election rules.
The other pressing issue in the PAN, aside from the contenders, is the strategy in the Michoacán state election, to take place on November 8th. The PAN needs a victory in the race in order to overcome its loss of momentum after the PRI’s sweep in the three July 3rd state elections. Their candidate will be Luisa María Calderón, the sister of President Calderón. The news this week was the negotiated electoral alliance between the PAN and Nueva Alianza, or PANAL. This may be a smart electoral strategy, though some analysts see this as another boost for Elba Esther Gordillo, the all-powerful head of the Mexican teacher’s union.
Lastly, the PAN detailed its internal candidate selection process, which will include votes from the 1.8 million party members, or militantes.
In the PRD, a new organization has come out in support of Marcelo Ebrard, the mayor of Mexico City. Lead by Jesús Ortega, a former PRD party president, the group is called the “Democrats of the Left” (“Demócratas de Izquierda”).
Two other prominent left-wing intellectuals, neither of whom is officially linked with the PRD, expressed their preference for Ebrard. Carlos Fuentes, author of The Death of Artemio Cruz and other novels, gave his support during an interview, while journalist and writer Jorge Zepeda wrote an op-ed in favor of Ebrard.
While the public endorsement of prominent public figures like Fuentes and Zepeda are important to Ebard’s campaign, his chief rival, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) continues to be the frontrunner in the race for the PRD’s presidential nomination. The assumption continues to be that the PRD nomination is AMLO’s to lose, but it is also increasingly clear that Ebrard intends to challenge AMLO’s status as the “inevitable” candidate.
The Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, was in Chicago last week to promote improvements to the system of voting from abroad. Though the 2006 election allowed Mexicans abroad to vote for the first time, a surprisingly small number (32,000) actually did. The IFE has eased restrictions on voting, doing away with the hefty postage costs to submitting one’s ballot and the requirement to list your address in order to vote, among other reforms.
Lastly, nine kidnapped pollsters from the prominent agencies Mitofsky and Parametria were released. It is still unclear who was responsible, but The Los Angeles Times observed that “the disappearances were a reminder of the dangerous conditions that prevail across drug-trafficking zones in Mexico, especially in the countryside, where gunmen are effectively in charge of some areas.”