Sunday, June 4, 2017

Elections in Mexico this Sunday. Key Elections.

This coming Sunday, June 4th, there will be elections in Mexico. Not presidential; only three states will be voting for new governors (and a fourth will be electing some 200 mayors). But these elections — the results in one state in particular — will shape the future of Mexico, for at least the next decade.

Elections for mayor are happening in the state of Veracruz, and elections for governor in Nayarit, Coahuila, and the state of Mexico. Yes, we have a state called after the country; someone must've run out of naming ideas... No, not really. It's more like the country is named after the state—or, actually, the city. In brief, when the Spanish conquered this land they'd call La Nueva España (New Spain, stretching from Nicaragua all the way up to British Columbia), they divided it into reinos, which translates literally as 'kingdoms' but it's in practice more like provinces, and one of these provinces, because it included the Mexica capital of Mexico-Tenochtitlan (now rather in ruins), was named xico. After independence from Spain came about and Mexico City was proclaimed the capital of this brand-new nation (1824), the city separated from the state into the Distrito Federal, DF for short (kind of like Washington, DC ). And so we ended up with both a city and a state (and a country) named México.

La Nueva España, circa 1821. At one point, the territory also included Cuba and the Philippines.
Back to the present. As I write (and as you read), the electoral process is going on in the state of México—and it promises to be one of the dirtiest ever. Which, if you know anything about Mexican elections, you know that's saying a lot. For as long as I can remember, and as long as my parents can remember, elections in México have always been 'arranged'. We all knew upfront who the new president would be, who the new governors, mayors, members of parliament, all of them, simply by virtue of the party they belonged to. The PRI held on to its dictatorship hand-me-down rule for 70 years by becoming masters of electoral fraud—and, of course, this resulted in a growing cynical defeatism in the population, which played right into their hands.

Until 2000. In a landslide victory—which had to be truly landslide in order to beat the machinery of fraud—Vicente Fox (of the PAN) won the elections for president. And we all thought that was that, the PRI was done, let them go back to the hole of corruption and self-interest they came from and leave us the hell alone.

Of course, that didn't happen. In many states, the PRI never quite surrendered (or was made to surrender) its hegemony. The state of México—EdoMex, for short—is one such; the PRI has ruled that state uninterruptedly, for 90 years. NINETY. This state has never been ruled by another party, and therefore it has—logically—become something of a PRI stronghold, the fort where wounded PRI warriors go to recover, the Knossos-like labyrinthine dungeons where the darkest, most sensitive secrets of the PRI machinery are vaulted away from the light of day, and the impenetrable walls behind which new crops of PRI Uruk-hai are bred.

The state of Mexico or EdoMex, as commonly abbreviated.

It is from EdoMex that our current president, Enrique Peña Nieto (the world's most notorious nincompoop, until the US elected The Donald to the highest office), hails from, where he was groomed and indoctrinated, where he made his first public-office 'practices', where he launched his presidential bid—and, allegedly, where most of the funds to back him, legal and illegal, were sourced.

If México is ever to get rid of the PRI and the corruption it has not just enabled but legitimized and, indeed, made an intrinsic part of the Mexican way of life, it must involve taking back the state of México and dismantling the bastion of power and safe passage it represents for the PRI.

Alfredo del Mazo Maza, PRI candidate for governor of the State of México (EdoMex) — and cousin of president Peña Nieto, pictured in the background.

Today, for the first time in—well, ever—there's an actual chance that the PRI might lose its fortress. And not to an even slightly like-minded, center-right-winged candidate, no. The polls predict a near-tie between Alfredo del Mazo, the PRI candidate for governor (and president Peña Nieto's cousin), and his opponent (one might say direct opposite) from the newcomer left-wing Morena party, Delfina Gómez. After Brexit and Trump, we're all (painfully) aware how wrong polls can be, but even the prediction itself is already a landmark moment; never in EdoMex history has there been anything close to a tie, predicted or real, between the PRI and any other party. Never. And the PRI-run federal government knows it, which is why they're running scared.

This election has shown us an unprecedented sight: the federal government's direct participation—nay, interference—in the campaign. Call centers, door-to-door canvassing, distribution of thank-you notes from the PRI candidate along with goods and even the infamous salarios rosas (literally 'pink salaries'), a barely disguised bribe to housewives; the smear campaign against the other candidates, especially Delfina Gómez, and the acarreados, the people brought to voting booths in busloads and given any number of trinkets (on top of the ride) in exchange for their promise to vote for the PRI. All of this provided and funded via federal pesos.

Delfina Gómez, Morena candidate for governor of EdoMex. The photo on the lower left corner is her home: 52 square meters of unpretentiousness and humility.
And it's understandable. If the EdoMex is lost to another party, let alone to one with as much enmity towards the PRI as the Morena party, the PRI (and the president, and the president's cronies) may be at the beginning of their end. Presidential elections are to be held next year, in the summer of 2018. The EdoMex elections are expected to be not just a thermometer for the political climate nationwide but also, given that the temperature, politically speaking, doesn't really need mercury and grids to be felt, a test of the PRI's machinery in retaining control, in imposing their rule (yet again).

A loss, in this state in particular, would mean—to the PRI, and to the country at large—that the PRI's time is over. A win by Morena's Delfina Gómez would mean the country is ready for change, for progressive and socially conscious change—and it would be the most strident rejection of the PRI, and all it stands for. It would mean, in short, hope.


  1. I wish the best for the Mexican people which means one party should not control so much. We are having that problem in the States. Congressional districts are gerrymandered to favor white Republicans or black Democrats. People like me are not represented.

  2. Let's hope the cycle of 'government bought and paid for' can be ended, and real democracy take hold.

  3. Hi Guilie - I certainly hope that the people can vote with their heads and not via pressure ... as you say let's hope and sincerely hope ... our elections are on Thursday - which will be interesting to see what happens. Good luck to Mexico and its peoples ... cheers Hilary

  4. I think it is great that PRI is getting defeated. I also fear that Morena is not the answer people hope for. AMLO is known to be strongly tied to Venezuela's dictator Maduro. Just see what happened to Venezuela, and be aware that Mexico could well follow the same path.


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