New Candidate Jolts Mexican Politics

By Dudley Althaus in  The Wall Street Journal 05/22/15

MONTERREY, Mexico—A maverick former mayor known as El Bronco is mounting a competitive bid as Mexico’s first independent gubernatorial candidate, a sign of Mexican voters’ rancor toward the country’s traditional political parties.

Running a social media campaign waged on a shoestring—supporters press crumpled bills into his hands on the stump— Jaime Rodríguez is shaking up politics in Nuevo Leon, the conservative northern border state that includes the industrial powerhouse of Monterrey, and jolting politicians nationwide.

An opinion poll published Friday in El Norte, Monterrey’s leading newspaper, puts Mr. Rodríguez ahead of his rival from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in the June 7 vote. The PRI has ruled Nuevo Leon for 80 of the past 86 years.

Mr. Rodríguez’s unlikely bid has emerged as one of the most watched in a midterm vote that will replace all 500 members of Mexico’s lower house of Congress, nine governors and hundreds of state legislators, mayors and city councils. Polls suggest that the PRI and its allies are likely to retain a slight majority in Congress.

But that doesn’t mean all is well in Mexico for the ruling party. Mr. Rodríguez, a rancher, businessman and thrice married father of six, represents a new page in Mexican politics: the rise of independent candidates running against the traditional parties, something that was illegal until a 2014 political overhaul passed by congress.

“This is making the political parties tremble because a candidate without a party, a structure or resources is giving them a fight,” Mr. Rodríguez, 58, said in an interview.

June’s vote takes place amid mounting voter frustration with continued underworld violence, a lackluster economy, and corruption scandals that have hit all three major parties, especially the PRI. President Enrique Peña Nieto and his finance minister have come under scrutiny for property deals they made with government contractors. They both deny any wrongdoing. Civic groups have accused family members of Nuevo Leon’s current governor illicit enrichment through dirty land deals. They deny wrongdoing.

“We have a cancer which has to be eradicated and that’s corruption,” Mr. Rodríguez said to whoops and applause at a recent stop in Monterrey’s wealthiest suburb. “I don’t want to be just one more governor, I want to change the system.”

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