Sunday’s presidential election in Mexico was closely followed by more than just the Mexican people. While Mexican citizens anxiously wonder what awaits them in the next six years with their new leader, the United States government is also bracing itself for a potential shift in foreign policy.
Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was the clear frontrunner in this year’s election and claimed victory within hours of polls closing. The PRI is the authoritarian party that ruled Mexico with widespread corruption for 71 straight years prior to the 2000 election. There were few employment opportunities for citizens during their governance and state officials often took mordidas, or bribes, from the drug cartels and other criminals.
However, amidst the continued corruption of the National Action Party (PAN), the escalating drug-related violence, and a growing sense of nostalgia for more peaceful times, Peña Nieto was able to successfully brand himself as the new face of a corruption-free PRI. Given his opponents, this was no difficult task for Peña Nieto.
Second in the polls, was Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) which is affiliated as a left wing party. Obrador never seemed the likely victor given that he initially ran for office against Mexican President Felipe Calderon in 2006 and lost. He became somewhat unpopular after his party called for demonstrations that lasted six weeks to protest the election and demand a recount.
Following in third, was the incumbent party’s Josefina Vazquez Mota. The PAN is generally considered conservative and held the office after a historically significant election in 2000, when they became the first opposition party to elect a president since 1910. Vazquez Mota’s downfall was her failure to distance herself from Calderon and the administration’s stubborn approach to combating the drug cartels.
Finally, there’s Gabriel Quadri of the New Alliance Party (PNA), one of the newest political parties in Mexico. The party was created in 2005 and hasn’t gained the popularity needed to seriously compete with the other three parties. Going into the elections with only two percent in the polls, Quadri never had a real chance at winning.
With reports of well over 47,000 drug-related killings since Calderon began his military assault on drug cartels in late 2006, it is no surprise that community safety and security was the major issue in this election. The candidates all vowed to shift Mexico’s security strategy away from drug-trafficking to focus on violence reduction and more preventative measures like improving economic circumstances to remove the incentives of pursuing a life of crime.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the student-led demonstrations known as Yo Soy 132 continue to grow in popularity despite virtually no coverage by the mainstream media. The movement was directed at the state-owned media, accused of favoring Peña Nieto, and its bias coverage of the election. Although the protest was unsuccessful in smearing Peña Nieto’s image, it did effectively redefine the tone of the election similar to the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States.
A projected 60 percent of eligible voters participated in Sunday’s elections. Despite the student demonstrations, voters made it clear they are willing to take a risk with a historically corrupt government that promises safer communities.