Saturday, June 30, 2012

ballots and bottles

Unless the Mexican people have been pulling an incredible hoax on the pollsters, Mexico's next president will be Enrique Peña Nieto.  The man who has had a commanding lead in the polls since he officially started running last September.

I wrote briefly of the race three weeks ago in am I lying -- or have my lips stopped moving?,  and nothing much has changed.  It appears that the party Mexicans learned to loathe (PRI) will be returning to executive power.  Whether or not the party will have a working majority in the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate will be decided by the voters on Sunday.

I have my sentimental favorites.  But Article 33 of the Mexican constitution clearly states: "Foreigners may not in any way participate in the political affairs of the country."  Under the same article, the president has the authority to deport any foreigner -- without recourse to legal action.

Because I like living here, you will hear no endorsements from me.  But that does not prevent me from sharing some of the politicking that has taken place over the past two months -- the official campaigning period for the offices of president, congress, governor, and regional offices.

Some campaign techniques are very familiar to Americans.  Such as, billboards.  Where pretty women once lured customers into buying cellular telephone hours, somewhat less congenial faces flog political confidence.

What was far too familiar to my American ears were the televised presidential debates.  They were as boring as Sunday morning discussion shows.

There is a reason for that.  Much discussed by Mexican political commentators.  The major political parties are not driven by ideology.  Certainly, their candidates are not.  Elections are about personality.

And that is why splashing names over everything is so important.  Or yelling through sound truck speakers all day long. 

When I first moved here, I was surprised to discover the number of political advertisements painted on walls.  Some on the fronts of house.

I assumed the wall owners were committed supporters.  A Mexican friend disabused me of that notion.  Some are supporters.  But most people allow the signs because they receive a nice payment for the advertisement space.

I have no idea if PRD purchased this space.  But the combined message has always struck me as a bit jarring.  The happy face and AMLO, the PRD's candidate, just do not seem to be a perfect match.

And the unintended flaky impression is only slightly less jarring than PRD's choice of Bardahl yellow -- the international color of liberal parties.  If anything, PRD is the anithesis of economic liberalism.

Mexicans are just as quick to plaster advertisements of their favorite candidates on their cars.  This PAN supporter displays one of the few advertisements I have seen in favor of the PAN's candidate for president: Josefina Vázquez Mota.  Probably doomed to finish in third place on Sunday.

And a small sticker it is.

This car sticker initially threw me.

"I go with Jesus."  At first, I thought some religious group was doing a riff on the election.  Until I followed this bus through town.

Jesus is the PAN's candidate for president of our "county."

But his banners are certainly not as classy as those for
Peña Nieto.  They almost look like posters for a movie premier.  A look appropriate for a matinee-handsome candidate and his television star wife. 

You may recall he was the candidate, while campaigning at a book fair, who could not think of three books that had influenced him.  My elite friends made fun of him because of the incident.  Most Mexicans had no trouble empathizing with him.

One aspect of Mexican political posters confused me when I first saw them.  Most of the party symbols had an "X" drawn them.  I thought it was the graffiti work of opponents.

It turns out the "X" means just the opposite.  A large number of Mexicans are illiterate.  The "X" is a pictograph to mark the treasure.

And treasure there is.  Rumors abound in town that pesos are to be had by taking a cell phone to the ballot box to document a correct vote.

I know nothing of that.  But I do know alcohol is not on sale today or tomorrow.  One of those rather hollow symbolic moves to add a note of sobriety to the great democratic drama.

It has been fun watching this election from my almost-nonpartisan vantage point.  The more interesting show is yet to come with the change of power in December.

There may be a lot of talking to Jesus.


nicholsloy studio said...

hey steve, cool post! (san & dave)

Steve Cotton said...

 Thanks.  I thought you would like some of the artier pieces.  After all, this is the land of murals

Felipe Zapata said...

There is a candidate in my neck of the Mexican woods who has a name that will amuse cynics. It's Moron.

Actually, there's an accent mark over his name, but I am omitting that for the sake of clarity. Or something like that.

I would not agree that the parties are not driven by ideology. The PAN is conservative and Catholic. The PRD is lefty, and its followers want the government to take care of them like lefties want everywhere.

One of the biggest hoots on our political stage are the Greens, a party of the far right. How did that happen?

The Workers'  Party (read Commies) with its red banner (literally) has aligned itself with the PRD, and the Greens with the self-serving PRI.

The Mexican Greens are so righty that the international Greens movement booted them out.

I have decided not to vote for any presidential candidate, but I will vote for the PAN deputies who have promised to be cooperative with the presumed PRI president.

Looking down the road, I eagerly await my Gringo absentee ballot so I can vote against Obama.

Steve Cotton said...

On my trip north later in the summer, I am going to register to vote in my new state of residence.  I thought about not voting this year.  It would have been my first miss of a presidential election since 1968.  But I am going to stay in the game.  After all, the federal government still takes quite a bit of my income.  If I am paying, I should have some say. 

jennifer rose said...

Jesus Reyna, who is a great guy BTW, had a campaign slogan few years back that read "Jesus is Coming." The Archbishop got really hot under the collar over that. Geesh, what's the guy supposed to say "Moses invests"? Moses wasn't his name.

Well, I have just voted, and voted like every good Mexican ought to: PRI. 

John Calypso said...

 "I eagerly await my Gringo absentee ballot so I can vote against Obama."

Waiting for our TWO ballots for the same reason!

Kim G said...

Interesting post.  I was with a number of Mexican friends Friday night, and they argued (unconvincingly to me) that the number of undecided voters lies in the low 30% range. Thus, they argued, anything could happen as soon as this huge bloc of indecisive folk made up their minds. I suggested that such undecideds were less likely to vote and thus likely not the swing factor that my friends believed.

I guess we'll soon see what happens. But I suspect Peña Nieto will be the next president.

Up until Friday, when risk assets of all kinds surged, the Peso had been quite weak. I think this has less to do with the election than with general global financial chaos. But it will be interesting to see whether Peña Nieto's policies lead to a stronger or weaker peso. My guess is likely weaker since the PAN is the most pro-business party. As such, Peña Nieto should be relatively good for expats with USD incomes.


Kim G
DF, Mexico
With another week or so to go before back to Boston.

Felipe Zapata said...

 But I imagine you'll be writing in Ron Paul or voting for some other fringe candidate, all of which amounts to a vote for Obama in the real world. Think on it.

John Calypso said...

" all of which amounts to a vote for Obama in the real world. Think on it."

Too serious a moment in time to make a statement - real action is the order of the day. I have thought about it - our votes will be cast for Romney - the only hope at this point.

jennifer rose said...

Sorry, Felipe. Since a vote for Romney is a vote against Obama, I'm with the Mormon this time around.

Felipe Zapata said...

My God Almighty! The world has left its axis. My head is spinning. If Obama has alienated good radical folks like yourselves, perhaps there is true change to be found in November.

Felipe Zapata said...

 Jennifer: Clearly, you are thinking of my past opposition to the guy in the Mormon underwear. I have long since changed my tune. The Republican, no matter who he or even she might have been, gets my vote.

Felipe Zapata said...

 PS: On second thought, I think you were referring to your idol Ron Paul and that you will not vote for him. Good for you.

al cuban said...

The cross marks also seemed confusing to me at first. In San Miguel, the PRI candidate promises to "rescue" the municipality. From what I wonder? A PRI-controlled "coalition" already runs the city. Our cleaning woman also reports that one of the candidates was giving out microwaves and small TVs in exchange for votes. Sounds like Chicago in the old days though they didn't have microwaves then.


Steve Cotton said...

I say, use what you've got.  On the other hand, I was a bit put out with my campaign manager, for my one legislative run, when she distributed green and white buttons announcing: "Pick Cotton."

Steve Cotton said...

Reports from the 2008 election is that walking money bought urban votes for $15-20.  That surprised me because, according to the Humphrey campaign, it was the same amount the Kennedy campaign used to buy votes in West Virginia.

Obviously, Mexican voters are far better negotiators. 

Steve Cotton said...

I have heard some of the same thoughts -- mainly from AMLO supporters.  They remind me of a certain young libertarian who was convinced Goldwater would pull it off in the last week of the 1964 election.  I should point out, he is still waiting.

Andean said...

That is very funny. 

Felipe Zapata said...

Well, the Lefty AMLO lost the presidential election again, and again he's refusing to concede defeat, as the other losing candidates already have politely done. The vote was not that close. I understand the ignorant supporting this character in Mexico. What I have trouble understanding is the ostensibly intelligent people who also support this character. Amazing.

By the way, it was the highest voter turnout ever in Mexico.

Steve Cotton said...

I am now interested in how the senator and deputies elections will shake out.  It appears PRI is doing well there, as well.

Dutch said...

Required reading for anyone who intends to vote in the US elections:

Kim G said...

 Yes, I've already had this discussion this morning with F, who runs with a pack of AMLO supporters.  While you can always find SOME irregularities, the vote wasn't that close. The New York Times states that international observers also found the election relatively transparent.

I pointed out that before the election F's lefty friends were arguing to me (which I had a hard time believing) that more than 30% of the electorate was undecided. So today, when I suggested that perhaps all those undecideds settled on Peña Nieto after all, he wasn't too happy, but couldn't really argue the point either.

And the fact that Peña Nieto won by LESS than the pre-vote polling indicated, suggests to me it's MORE likely that the PRI wasn't stuffing ballot boxes. For if they were, then P-N should have won by a larger margin.

But, alas, Mexican lefties (at least the ones I know) don't tend to analyze the situation that way.

F and friends are now off to join a noisy protest of the Students 132 movement. I will meet up with them afterward, on "neutral ground," so as not to be kicked out of the country.

Kim G
DF, Mexico
Where it's interesting to watch this election.

Felipe Zapata said...

You cannot stuff our ballot boxes anymore. And we use real paper, real pencils and real boxes with clear, see-through sides The new system has representatives of the major parties overseeing each step the votes take, beginning at the polling places where everybody has their eyes on everybody. There are no computers to malfunction and no hanging chads either.

Of course, F runs with AMLO supporters. He's a teacher, thus a member of the most radical group of people in the country. Keep a close eye on him.

juan said...

discussing politics seems futile but thanks for the courage of your response.