Katie Putnam, The Mexico Institute’s Elections Guide, 9/6/2011
There were several interesting election stories in the past week. Two new polls reflect a shift in PAN candidate preferences, and begin to hint at the headwinds the party faces in public opinion due to the deteriorating security situation. Additionally, a leaked diplomatic cable reveals a U.S. analysis of the PRD’s internal contest, and a movement within the PRD pushes a third, “dark horse” candidate for the nomination. Lastly, the PRI continues to struggle to project a new modern image while accusations of fiscal mismanagement swirl around the current party president from the time when he was governor of Coahuila.
Josefina Vázquez Mota, who is expected to step down from her congressional seat on September 6th in order to run for her party’s presidential nomination, has pulled ahead of Santiago Creel, according to a new poll. Among PAN sympathizers surveyed by GCE (Gabinete de Comunicación Estratégica), she polls 39 percent, compared to Creel’s 30 percent, Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero’s 11 percent and Jalisco Governor Emilio González’s seven percent. Alonso Lujambio, Education Minister, dropped out of the race on August 30th.
Creel is still benefits from the greatest name recognition outpolling Vázquez Mota by a margin of 25 percent, but the gap is steadily shrinking. Peter Corcoran, an analyst who maintains the Gancho Blog, suggests that despite Creel’s initial advantages in name recognition and his perceived distance from the Calderón administration, it will be difficult for him to reverse the trend towards Vázquez Mota.
Although at the moment Vazquez Mota is viewed as a strong candidate within the party others are doubtful of the electability of any PAN candidate. Reuters is doubtful of Vázquez Mota’s chances of becoming president, “given that increasing unrest about drug war violence is hurting support for President Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party (PAN).” Even before the Monterrey attack last week, less than half of Mexicans said the Calderón administration was progressing in its fight against organized crime; one-third said it was losing ground according to a Pew Global Attitudes poll.
“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the results of the Pew poll and other polls are bad news for the Calderón government and for his party in the lead up to next year’s presidential election. It is clear in this poll that there is declining faith in the government’s ability to confront the problem of crime and violence. To the extent the 2012 election becomes a referendum on the Calderón government’s security policies, the news in this poll is not good for the PAN party.”
In any case, many may have begun to tune out the administration, as evidenced by the lack of attention given to President Calderón annual informe, or State of the Union, last week. Mexico Institute Director Andrew Selee assesses why this partially reflects the inability of the President to set the agenda.
There were two interesting stories this week surrounding the PRD’s electoral strategy. First, released diplomatic cables reveal that the U.S. Embassy in Mexico sees Marcelo Ebrard as “the candidate to follow” going into the 2012 election. According to former ambassador Carlos Pascual:
“Ebrard is a dynamic politician, has progressive ideas, and is popular with the people. He is practical and flexible enough to establish alliances outside of his party. […] Former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador could still appear on the PRD ticket or influence Ebrard from behind the scenes. Either way, Ebrard is the candidate to follow within the PRD.”
Secondly, there was some talk in the press about Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, a co-founder and elder statesman of the PRD, competing for the party’s nomination. The National Democratic Alternation (Alternancia Democrática Nacional, or ADN) movement within the party will formally ask him to participate in the internal election on September 6th. The group hopes that the three-time presidential candidate, viewed as a “dark horse” by many analysts, could avoid a split within the left.
The Associated Press reports on the PRI’s “bumps” in its rebranding after the debt scandal surrounding former Coahuila governor and current PRI president Humberto Moreira (see our analysis from last week here):
“Since Moreira’s appointment as the head of the PRI in January, the 45-year-old politician has preached that his party is now more democratic and transparent… The debt issue raises ‘questions whether the PRI is the supposed squeaky-clean, modern image they have been pushing,’ said Shannon O’Neil, a Latin America expert of the U.S.-based think tank the Council on Foreign Relations. ‘It sounds like he doesn’t have an acceptable answer to why these numbers seem to be mismatched. For all politicians, a good defense is a good offense.’
Although presidential elections in the country are 10 months away, these allegations could hurt the PRI, O’Neil said. ‘It’s hard to tell what would come of this,’ she said.”
On another note, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, the President of the Mexican Senate and PRI presidential contender, broadcast his annual address online to his ten thousand followers on Facbeook and thirty-six thousand on Twitter.
The Michoacán election season officially began on Wednesday. President Calderón’s sister, Luisa María Calderón, is running as the Pan-Panal alliance candidate. Fausto Vallejo Figueroa is the PRI and Green Party (PVEM) candidate and Silvano Aureoles Conejo will run on the PRD, Covergencia, and Labor Party (PT) ticket.
In response to the Monterey attack, the IFE announced that it will modify its electoral plans for 2012 to guarantee security.