Sunday, July 1, 2012

Today's election - a few thoughts

If vote intention polls mean anything at all - they may not, but we'll know today - PRI will return to the presidency today, and possibly with a large majority in the Chamber of Deputies, and also the Senate.

I truly hope this will not happen.

Many may have read Jorge Castañeda's Don't fear a PRI win in Mexico, which essentially argues that even if PRI has not changed, Mexico's institutions will be able to withstand a return of the old regime.

I don't share the optimism. I truly fear for Mexico's democracy. I may well be wrong and I hope I am, but one doesn't have to look very deeply at Enrique Peña Nieto's trajectory to find a man who represents every one of PRI's vices in the past: Collusion with the media, steamrolling of the opposition, blatant institutional engineering (Ley Peña - why on earth has the media forgotten about this?), cover-up of corruption, mediocre social programs, clientelism, and lest we forget, outright authoritarianism. There is much more, but this is only from the past few years of his Mexico State government. The past days, more and more stuff is simply seeping to the surface.

This is a man who went to Oaxaca in 2010 to actively stump for a murderous repressor and scoundrel, Ulises Ruiz, when he tried to impose his PRI successor, and on whose campaign trail in Puebla had the pedophile-protecting Mario Marín appear at his campaign events.

The editors at The Economist, as expected, endorsed Peña Nieto. Their choice is logical - PAN's candidate is mediocre and represents more mediocrity for Mexico still, and there are serious and legitimate reservations over the democratic credentials of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Yet it is not only about one man, Peña Nieto - and I hold him in a very low regard - but of a party as well, which has shown absolutely no indication it has changed. I don't think this is demagoguery; there are many good priístas just like there are good people in any party. But a party carries within it an imprint that it is very, very hard to rid itself of. And looking at how PRI and their thugs acted in the 2010 and 2011 state elections, I fear for Mexico's democracy should they return to executive powers, backed by legislative majorities. They won't be easily removed.

A few and rather random observations from the recent days of the campaign:

* A truly pathetic defense of "spoil-the-vote," which will of course benefit the front runner and is not a "neutral" choice - it takes no responsibility for the results either - from Carlos Loret de Mola, can be read here. Read it for the vacuity of its arguments.

* A very tight and well-written argument against spoiling your vote from Jorge Zepeda Patterson here.

* One of the best columns I've read from Joaquín López-Dóriga here. Yes, this is a system man who turns his cape with the wind, but here he makes an excellent argument for truly making a "useful" vote today: Do not vote for the "franchise parties," those tiny ones who care nothing of ideology or programs but only exist to further the business or personal interests of a personality or a family. They are: The PVEM "Green" party, the PANAL of Gordillo, the North Korea-praising PT of Anaya, and the party set up by Delgado to return the ex-priísta to the governorship of Veracruz, Movimiento Ciudadano. This time voters will have a choice: If you want Peña Nieto, you can vote for PRI or PVEM for the legislative list; if you want AMLO you can vote for PRD, PT, or MC. I think his arguments are convincing: Vote for whomever you want, but don't give a vote to the smaller parties.

* Another thing I've really found notable is the bias of newspapers ahead of the election. I used to like Milenio, and enjoy their free Web TV coverage, but the bias toward EPN has been absurd, and in many cases sickly groveling, such as from Carlos Mota. I've essentially stopped reading most of their columnists, who have truly bent over backwards and forwards to praise PRI and badmouth the left, and even their gossip column Transcendió has turned into a propaganda effort. Ya basta - no more Milenio for me.

* El Universal's coverage, as IFE has confirmed, was equitable and excellent. It was always my paper of choice, and has remained so (note: major exception with Ricardo Alemán, who has unfortunately returned as columnist). Reforma is excellent as well, though annoyingly pro-PAN and anti-left, though they make far from a pretense over it, as does Milenio. La Jornada covers many stories others leave out and remains very valuable, but it is so pro AMLO biased (including against his opponents of the left) that its political coverage is often really useless - confusing editorializing for journalism far too often. And enough of the goddamn Castro praising, please.

As for the election, UNAM says the PREP, which shows the results as they are posted from the 431370 boxes - president, senators, deputies - at the voting stations (though these figures have no legal status, as some stations results may be questioned), has been ready for days and will not fail.

IFE says they're ready - and that we will know the results of a "quick count," which is actually a statistical sample, at 23:45 Mexico City time, or 00:45am EST, or 6:45am where I am these days. It'll be a long night. IFE is also very optimistic on the organization, and note that 99.3 percent of ballot boxes have three or more party representatives registered. I doubt this figure will hold, but it bodes well. All I can hope for, next to an elevated vote gain for the left, is that the elections will not be violent.

I predict I will win a bottle of tequila, the likely result of a bet I made at the LASA 2012 conference with a Mexican academic, as I argued Peña Nieto will come first, with AMLO second and PAN third.

I'd be very glad to lose that bet tonight.


No al voto nulo. El Universal, June 17, 2012.
Don't fear a PRI win in Mexico. Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2012.
Back to the future. The Economist, June 23, 2012.
El instituto se dice listo para difundir un conteo rápido la noche del domingo. La Jornada, June 25, 2012.
¿Cómo voy a votar? - Opinion - El Universal. El Universal, June 26, 2012.
El verdadero voto útil. Milenio, June 26, 2012.
Mexican media scandal: secretive Televisa unit promoted PRI candidate. The Guardian, June 26, 2012.
El IFE reconoce equidad informativa en contienda. El Universal, June 30, 2012.
El PREP, listo para elección, avala UNAM. El Universal, June 27, 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Jorge Casta~neda is Mexico's national troll. Once in while he'll be right (like a broken clock which is still right at least twice a day), but more often than not Lic. Casta~neda's written mental diarrhea at best makes the educated and informed want to bang their heads against the nearest solid object.

    I used to love El Universal (and I like Milenio's TV programming - Ciro Gomez Leyva excluded), but I can't quite consider them to have had an exemplary role in covering this election. The "charolazo" scandal that AMLO was implicated in dominated El Universal's coverage for days to the point that the story became a semi-permanent fixture on the paper's website (nary a mention of the much more serious and better-proven Televisa-Pe~na Nieto links dating to 2005).

    All in all, the meme going around in the social media is correct - time to set our clocks back 70 years whenever we enter Mexico. All of the media and the national electoral institutions - especially the biased, negligent, and indifferent IFE - seem to have succeeded in giving the Mexican people one possibly very horrendous sexenio (and who knows how long the PRI will stick in office this time around).

    I didn't believe in an electoral fraud in 2006, but after seeing the pusillanimous attitude of the usual suspects this time around I can't help but see those of us who believe in reform in Mexico as being in stuck in a Kafka-esque nightmare. AMLO is no messiah nor does he have all the answers, but at least he offered something different and with substance as opposed to whatever it is Pe~na Nieto will actually give us if he truly ends up winning tonight. The real drama will be to see how he reacts and more importantly how the Mexican people will react to the imposition of tele-dictatorship after another fraudulent electoral cycle.