Wed, Jul 07, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Mexicans show little faith in political parties


After a Super Sunday of elections across Mexico that was widely seen as a test for the 2012 presidential race and the nation’s future, the winner turns out to be — well, not really anyone.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s party is weak, the left is in collapse and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that is on a tentative path to recapture the presidency it held for 71 years was shown to be vulnerable. Drug cartel intimidation dissuaded many from voting at all.

The mixed outcome in elections across 15 states showed no party has won the faith of Mexicans desperate to bring their country out of a quagmire of economic stagnation and relentless gang wars that have killed more than 23,000 people since Calderon took office three years ago.

Calderon’s conservative National Action Party won not a single state on its own, and lost two it had held, according to results on Monday, and needed desperate alliances with leftists to wrest strongholds from the old ruling party.

The PRI, demonstrated it remains Mexico’s most important political force, won nine of 12 governorships on Sunday.

Still, that was no change from the number it had before the ballot. And its defeat in three longtime bastion states indicated many Mexicans are still repulsed by the party that ruled through patronage and corruption from 1929 to 2000.

Sunday’s elections also displayed the intimidating power of drug cartels in the most embattled states. Only a third of voters showed up in the country’s most violent state, Chihuahua, where drug gangs hung four bodies from bridges on election day. Less than 40 percent voted in Tamaulipas, where gubernatorial candidate Rodolfo Torre was assassinated last week.

It’s not where Mexicans thought they would be when National Action’s Vicente Fox ousted the PRI in 2000 and promised a new era.

“I still remember the celebration when Vicente Fox won the presidential elections 10 years ago. It was as if Mexico had won the World Cup,” Mexican political scientist Leo Zuckerman wrote on Monday in Excelsior newspaper. “Where are we 10 years after the historic triumph of Fox?”

“I see multiple threats to democracy, which has not yet consolidated itself in Mexico. I think organized crime is the biggest challenge,” he said.

The PRI was widely seen as doomed after its loss to Fox, and it was a battered afterthought in the 2006 presidential election, when Calderon narrowly defeated a resurgent Democratic Revolution Party.

Four years later, Calderon’s ratings are slumping amid mass shootings, corruption scandals and kidnappings that remind Mexicans daily of the resilient power of drug cartels he has vowed to defeat.

Democratic Revolution — the PRI’s biggest competitor for the working class vote — has largely imploded amid internal wrangling.

In a sense, the left and right are back to where they were in the days of PRI rule: forced into uncomfortable alliances to tackle a powerful opponent.

Democratic Revolution joined Calderon’s party to win Sinaloa and Puebla behind coalition candidates who only recently bolted from the PRI. A similar coalition won in Oaxaca behind a minor-party candidate who quit the PRI a decade ago.

Though the results were largely due to local issues and local scandals, they were a blow to the PRI’s hope that Sunday would help propel it back to the presidency.

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