This post has been under consideration for some time. I had the draft in a previous version of the blog, but yesterday’s capture of Miguel ‘Chapo‘ Guzman sparked a deeper interest in the state of the race. If you are familiar with Mexico’s political history, you can skip to the second part of this post by clicking here. If you’d like a bit of a broader picture, the history section may be of interest.
For ~60 years, Mexico’s PRI dominated the political system at all levels. Limited to a single term by the 1917 constitution (and extended to 6 years in 1927), Mexico’s leaders enjoyed near comprehensive executive power with no need to guarantee personal popularity for re-election. Similar to the Alberta PC Party, the toughest fight was the internal battle to become the party’s leader and candidate, rather than the general election, where weaker opposition parties could not challenge the depth and breadth of the PRI machine.
Unlike other leadership contests, there was no open process to select the presidential candidate. The outgoing Mexican president would choose his successor, a process deemed El Dedazo, or the finger. The stories of the internal (and unofficial) fights within the cabinet have made their way into both academic and popular literature. Carlos Salinas de Gortari’s selection would ultimately split the PRI between the ‘dinosaurs’ and the ‘technocrats’, and play a major role in its loss its decline and loss in 2000.
In 1994, PRI candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was gunned down at a campaign rally in Tijuana. The theories surrounding his death could almost match those of JFK, as few understand who and why a popular reformer would be killed. His replacement, Ernesto Zedillo, still handily won the 1994 election, but chose to implement an open primary within the party, declining the opportunity to choose his successor. The primary exposed additional rifts within the party, and ultimately weakened PRI candidate Labastida, who finished third to the PAN’s Vicente Fox.
The PAN won a second term – President Felipe Calderon narrowly defeated PRD candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) amidst rumours of electoral fraud and mischief. – more about AMLO later. Facing a violent war between cartels, Felipe Calderon launched a series of major operations to limit cartel power. This escalated the conflict, and has since killed over 110,000 – a conservative estimate as well.
The PAN lost the 2012 presidential election to PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto, a former governor and popular regional figure. He offered the Pact for Mexico, a comprehensive set of reforms in energy, security, and a major push to reduce corruption. Despite his best intentions, EPN has seen his popularity plummet. His energy reforms have been hindered by popular opposition and collapsing world prices. His push for security has faced set-backs, the most notable being cartel boss Chapo Guzman’s escape, just months after being captured. The disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, and the anemic government response has further weakened his popularity. Despite these setbacks, the PRI still dominated the 2015 midterm elections, taking 207 of 500 seats, down just 9 from their 2012 results.