By RICARDO CASTILLO
The first of three periods dictated by Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE) will come to an end on Sunday, Feb. 11. This period was to denote both political alliances and carry out what in the United States would be considered primaries to select officials running for office.
Over the next five months, the INE has programmed two more periods. The first will be from Feb. 12 through March 30, during which the three now-defined political alliances formed by the nine different parties – three parties apiece – will register their definitive candidates to run for the over 2,300 offices in contention. The third period will be from April 1 through June 26, during which all the candidates will run their races. There will be a five-day lull before the July 1 election.
The first “round,” indeed true to boxing fight tradition, has been one of reconnaissance and a lot of shadowboxing without any of the contenders – given the INE specifications – throwing any real direct punches. In short, there is no such thing as a first-round knockout, even if it looked like one.
Most definitely during this past period called “pre-campaigning” there was no question in anyone’s mind that National Regeneration Movement (Morena) political party leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) came out way ahead of the pack in terms of the presidential election, which is, of course, the cherry on Mexico’s political cake.
In fact, last week, daily newspaper El Financiero-Bloomberg ran a poll putting AMLO way ahead his closest competitor, Ricardo Anaya, by a difference of 11 percent, as AMLO received 38 percent while Anaya got only 27 percent. Way back in third place is Jose Antonio Meade Kuribreña, with 22 percent of the vote. Meade is the cherry-picked candidate of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Also lagging behind are also so-called “independent” candidates with former First Lady Margarita Zavala in fourth place, with 7 percent, Nuevo León Gov. Jaime “El Bronco” Rodríguez, also with 7 percent, and, tailing at the very end, Guerrero Senator Armando “The Jaguar” Ríos, with 3 percent.
The poll, carried out across the nation’s 32 states, pretty much denotes how the first electoral period is coming to an end and clearly shows that the final election will be among six different candidates, namely the abovementioned contenders.
Even if there are six candidates, however, the final stretch will be galloped by the three leading horses, namely AMLO, Anaya and Meade.
Everyone seems to recognize that AMLO is running an excellent race. His savvy of Mexican politics is staggering compared with that of his two key opponents as this is the third time he is running for president, and having lost the two previous campaigns, this election is crucial ,not just to his political life but also to the survival of the political party, Morena, which he founded in 2014 and has now joined with minority Labor and Social Encounter parties.
This time around, AMLO – unlike the crabby fellow he used to be in past elections – seems to be having fun dealing both with contenders and the entire political establishment operating against him.
Just as an example, his detractors recently claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin is behind him and that there is a complot in all his campaign to side with the Russians, who – much like Donald Trump denies – are hacking the Mexican election.
As an old style leftist, instead of getting angry this time, AMLO displayed a sharp sense of humor, saying that there was nothing wrong with the Russians and that people could call him “Manuelovich,” echoing the old word “tovarisch” (comrade) that was used to denote the communist Russians of the Cold War. In short, he’s laughing at his many detractors.
Anaya of the three-way coalition National Action Party (PAN), Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and the Citizens’ Movement (MC) party has come out second not only in the abovementioned poll, but in most of them.
He has run his pre-candidacy on constant attacks against President Enrique Peña Nieto’s “very corrupt” administration and promises to “change” while the administration, through PRI President Enrique Ochoa Reza has presented “proof” (whatever that means out of a court of law) that Anaya is “a two-faced crook” who claims to be an honest businessman but has “amassed” a huge emporium of real estate in his native city of Querétaro.
Incidentally, one more plus AMLO has over his opponents – and it shows – is that he’s the most experienced stomper, while neither Anaya or Meade is on their first races as candidates. In both cases, AMLO outpaces them the way a seasoned marathon runner speeds past greenhorn runners.
Another shortcoming of PRI candidate Meade that is detracting from his campaign is the fact that he was appointed by Peña Nieto to be PRI candidate without ever having been a PRI militant. This was a move that was highly resented by many a PRI grassroots member.
In fact, over the past week, Meade has met with two people who wanted to be the PRI candidate, namely Manlio Fabio Beltrones and Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, both of whom have served as governors, in the states of Sonora and Hidalgo, respectively, and as Interior secretary. Both boast not merely the credentials PRI faithful demand out from a candidate, but also have the trust of the party faithful that – if elected – would not turn against the PRI, the way former President Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000) stands accused of doing.
Regardless of opinion polls – remember Hillary – there are still five months to go until the election, and, indeed ,anything could happen between now and then. Remember that we are just easing pass the “pre-electoral” campaign and there are still two more stages to go, with the open campaign officially kicking off on April 1.
But for the meantime, the six persons named above will be the ones making the headlines in the presidential race.
For most analysts — especially for President Peña Nieto’s PRI – the proof of the pudding will be in the senator and representative elections, all of which will be taking place simultaneously.
One thing is for certain: This race will just keep getting better as time goes by.