Sunday, June 04, 2017

what if harold stassen had been elected president?

Election day is upon us.

That is if you live in the State of Mexico.

The rest of the world may be suffering election fatigue, but the local pundits are watching a gubernatorial race in the state of Mexico to see if the entrails of an iguana can foretell the outcome of Mexico's presidential election in 2018.

The governor race has all of the makings of a dress rehearsal for next year. The leading contenders are from PRI (the Institutional Revolutionary Party) of President Peña Nieto and Morena, the party founded by the left-wing populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). If the Morena candidate wins, it will be an indication AMLO may be elected president of Mexico next year.

How can one state have such influence? It isn't the state that is so important (even though the state has the largest population of Mexico's states, and Peña Nieto stepped up to the presidency in 2012 after being governor there), it is the history surrounding Mexican elections since 2000.

In the mid-1990's PRI agreed to allow free elections for governors and members of congress. It was a grand departure for a party that had ensured it would not lose important elections.

That change resulted in the election of President Fox of the center-right PAN (the National Action Party) in 2000 and his successor President Calderon (also of PAN) in 2006. At the time, a lot of pundits declared PRI dead -- just as they have with the Republican and Democrat parties after each American election.

But PRI did not die. It held on to a good portion of Congress and a majority of governor positions. And, then, in 2012, PRI took back the presidency. The question is which party will prevail next year. President Peña Nieto is prohibited from running for election by the Mexican constitution.

AMLO is not new to presidential elections. He is the Harold Stassen of Mexico -- having run for the presidency (and lost) twice before: in 2006 and 2012 as the candidate of a coalition headed by the leftist PRD (the party of the Democratic Revolution). What sets him aside from Stassen is that he almost won both races.

He has now decided that PRD is too establishment for him, and has founded a party further to the left to be his populist vehicle to run for president -- Morena. And he has the wind at his back.

For five years he as acted as the unofficial opposition to almost everything President Peña Nieto has done (dr. lopez obrador has a cure for you). When Peña Nieto acted to improve the oil industry, the telecommunications monopoly, and the lamentable education system, AMLO was there to throw himself in the way of the reform train.

AMLO's biggest stick, though, is corruption -- which he conflates with reform. And Peña Nieto has served up a plate of steaming malfeasance for AMLO's campaign. Elected (like every president since the Revolution) to fight corruption, Peña Nieto has mired himself in the worst type right up to his photogenic neck.

Infrastructures contacts (some with China) that would be an ideal ethics case study in conflict of interest. Expensive homes at bargain prices for his wife. A Keystone Cops approach to crime. And, worst of all, a bungled investigation of the disappearance of 43 student teachers -- all wrapped up in a nice package of local political corruption and cartel connections.

Mexican voters are not pleased with Peña Nieto -- nor with PRI. Even though the party has held the governorship of Mexico state since PRI was established, this may be the year another candidate wins.

If PRI keeps the governor seat, it will mean little. PRI has not yet named its presidential candidate for next year. Whoever it is, the voters will undoubtedly offer him up on an altar of electoral sacrifice.

If Morena wins, AMLO's credentials to harness national anger in a populist cause will be enhanced. (If that recipe sounds familiar to Americans, it should.)

There is also the possibility of a real upset. Even though PRI has a slight lead in the polls, Morena, PRD, and PAN are bunched up together within striking distance.

As for me, I have no dog in this fight. But it will be interesting to see if the state of Mexico offers a preview for what next year will offer us.

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