By RICARDO CASTILLO
Good Friday will mark the beginning of the 2018 electoral campaign in Mexico.
Up for grabs are the nation’s presidency, nine state governorships, 128 Senate seats, 500 Chamber of Deputies seats and 283 municipal mayoralties. There are also a number of state senate and assembly seats being vied for.
Competition will be fierce and intense as all now-registered candidates are preparing their campaign programs and proposals.
But of course, though all of the competitions are important, the cherry on the cake is the race for president, which now – in its final stages – has three political party-backed candidates and one independent, the first allowed to run for president in Mexico.
The three main candidates and the parties backing them are, in order of importance in the polls: Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) who is backed by the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), the Labor Party (PT) and the Social Encounter Party (PES.) If all the polls are right, AMLO should come out the victor on the July 1 election, but the electoral campaign is just starting up, making any prediction meaningless at this point.
Running second in the polls has been 39-year-old Ricardo Anaya of the National Action Party (PAN), Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and Citizens’ Movement Party. Up until last week, Anaya was the runner-up in the polls, lagging behind by 18 or 20 points.
And last but not least, there has been José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, backed by the now-governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) the teachers’ union National Alliance (PANAL) and the Green Party (PVEM.) A recent poll by the daily El Financiero put Meade tied with Anaya for second place, but that was the first time since the electoral process began last Dec. 14 that Meade advanced in the polls, even if was just to catch up to second place.
The independent candidate is former First Lady (2006-2012) Margarita Zavala, wife to former president Felipe Calderón. In the polls, she’s running way behind with a 7 percent of voters’ preference.
Over the weekend, the three leading candidates made public the ads they will be using to kick off their campaigns.
AMLO promises to clean up corruption upside down and backwards, rejects any links to the Venezuelan government – there’s been a campaign claiming he will be another Hugo Chávez or Nicolás Maduro, both of who led Venezuela into financial disaster – and says that, when elected president, he will sell the luxurious presidential plane that’s been used by presidents Calderón and Peña Nieto as “an insult to all Mexicans since not even (U.S. President) Donald Trump has one like it. There can’t be a rich government among poor people.”
Ricardo Anaya, on the other hand, is forecasting the fall of President Peña Nieto’s PRI, which will be moved “into retirement.”
“The fact is, the PRI will go,” Anaya says, “but the question remains: What type of change do you want? Andrés Manuel’s? As far as I’m concerned he’s got an old-fashioned vision of Mexico and the world. We offer a new way of governance, a real change using all our resources and technology to solve problems and lead Mexico into a better future.”
Meade is also following the anti-corruption path. “What kind of government do I want?” he asks. “One headed by decent people. I have fought against corruption all my life. Due to my work, many a corrupt politician is now in jail; you know who they are. I have never lived beyond my income — never. One can be a public servant without doing money laundering, without big ranches, without excesses. I offer you a government that will combat corruption with all it’s got.”
Meade, who has no previous electoral experience even though he was a cabinet secretary on five different occasions, has been struggling to find a good sloga,n and for starters now he’s come up with “Advancing with You,” promising to create better educational facilities and scholarships for would-be students and small businessmen.
Unlike AMLO, who threatens to shoot down Peña Nieto’s polemic Energy Reform and scrap the on-going $13 billion construction of the new Mexico City International Airport, Anaya and Meade claim the status quo on these two very controversial issues, which will no doubt be at the center of debates during the three-month campaign that will last June 27.
Until then, we’ll all be watching the development of the many campaigns that will get underway starting Friday and kicking off in a grand scale this coming Sunday.