Category Archives: Election Monitor

El “bronquito” Kumamoto Triumphs as an Independent Candidate

6/11/2015 by Victoria Dagli 

kumamoto

25 year-old Pedro Kumamoto made history this past Sunday, June 7, 2015, by becoming the first independent candidate to ever win a legislative position in the State of Jalisco.  Kumamoto believes that it is the citizens, and not the political parties, who should be at the center of a democracy.  For this reason, he decided to run as an independent candidate and challenge the traditional way of making successful politics in Mexico:

–    With less than $500 USD to fund his pre-campaign, he managed to gather more than the 2% of signatures required by law to establish himself as a legitimate candidate.

–    With only $1,193 USD of funding provided by the Government, in comparison to the millions of dollars that political parties generally get, he managed to push forward a political campaign and successfully win the election.

–    Instead of relying on large amounts of funding like traditional parties do, Kumamoto focused his efforts on designing and implementing a political campaign based on the use of free tools, such as social media and word of mouth, that managed to create a unique and powerful grassroots movement.

–    Kumamoto was also the first candidate in Mexico to make publicly available his fiscal documents (declaración patrimonial) after the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness proposed a law to force all candidates to do so.

Kumamoto rose from a society that has become increasingly dissatisfied with the traditional political parties that have always dominated Mexico. Representing one of the wealthiest districts of Guadalajara’s metropolitan area, he broke the historical association that the wealthier classes had for the PRI and the PAN. Increasing violence and insecurity in a State that used to be one of the safest in the country have encouraged Jalisco’s citizens to actively unite under the leadership of other citizens, rather than depending on the proposals and solutions that traditional parties have repeatedly failed to materialize.  Kumamoto’s victory portrays not only a win but also the start of a new movement that has begun to take place in Mexico, where independent leaders such as himself and el Bronco are starting to emerge and gain the electorate’s trust and vote. Should this trend continue to grow, it will become of great interest to see how other new faces emerge and compete against candidates from traditional parties during the 2018 Presidential Elections.

Photo: Facebook user- Pedro Kumamoto 

Mexico’s Midterm Elections Likely to Reflect President’s Woes

6/5/15 Wall Street Journal

Mexico’s midterm elections Sunday are shaping up as a referendum on President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose early popularity for passing ambitious measures to lift the economy has been undercut by a resurgence in gang violence and corruption scandals.

Most pre-election polls suggest the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, with the help of coalition partners, could retain its scant majority in the 500-seat lower house of Congress. But polls also show Mr. Peña Nieto’s party faces strong challenges in seven of nine state governorships at stake.

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Tough-Talking El Bronco Wins Mexican Governor’s Race

6/8/15 The New York Times

A cussing rancher known as El Bronco, who made the first serious run for governor as an independent candidate in Mexico, trounced his competition in midterm elections, according to preliminary official results on Monday, in a race closely watched as a sign of voter frustration with entrenched, established parties often seen as ineffectual and corrupt.

The candidate, Jaime Rodríguez Calderón, running for governor of Nuevo León State, a business and industrial hub near the Texas border, received 49 percent of the vote. He defeated his closest rival, a candidate from the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI, by 25 percentage points.

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Mexico’s ‘Bronco’ Wins in Nuevo Leon as PRI Keeps House Lead

6/8/15 Bloomberg

Independent candidate Jaime “El Bronco” Rodriguez defied eight decades of precedent Sunday to win the governor’s office in Nuevo Leon, one of Mexico’s wealthiest states, in a rebuke of the established political parties.

In national voting, President Enrique Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and its allies are poised to remain the dominant force in the lower house, as forecast by polls, according to the electoral institute. Final results are expected by Wednesday. While protesters held demonstrations in southern states over issues ranging from Pena Nieto’s education overhaul to a massacre of 43 students last year, less than one percent of polling stations were unable to open, according to authorities.

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Independent Wins Mexican Governorship

6/8/15 Wall Street Journal

A maverick former mayor became Mexico’s first independent candidate to win a governor’s seat, riding a wave of voter anger against the country’s traditional political parties.

The news from Sunday’s midterm elections wasn’t all bad for President Enrique Peña Nieto, however: His ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and its allies appeared likely to keep a slim majority in the lower house of Congress, according to early official results. The runaway victory of Jaime “El Bronco” Rodriguez in Nuevo León state, an industrial powerhouse and home to some of Mexico’s biggest corporations, could spark a wave of independent candidacies nationwide for the 2018 presidential vote, a development analysts said might threaten traditional political parties’ grip on power.

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ELECTION MONITOR 06.04.15

By Pedro Valenzuela Parcero

Gubernatorial Debates

Since a little over 20 years ago, holding debates between candidates has become common in the Mexican political environment. Naturally, the first efforts were made during presidential campaigns. In fact, the first presidential debate was held during the 1994 elections. However, from that moment on, gubernatorial debates have been also increasingly common. The first public and broadcasted debate of this type was in 1997, during the first campaign to elect the Mayor of Mexico City. Debates have been driven either by electoral authorities or by media outlets. In this context, during the campaigns that today come to an end, there have been debates among the candidates for most of the 2015 gubernatorial elections.

Nuevo León, one of the most important states whose gubernatorial election became more competitive as campaigns advances, had 5 debates. One organized by electoral authorities, one more organized by the Civic Council Citizen through its platform Nuevo León ¿Cómo Vamos? two organized by universities (the University of Monterrey and Universidad Regiomontana) and the other one organized by El Norte, a leading newspaper from Grupo Reforma. Some have been summoned all candidates and in others only the pointers in the polls.

In all debates, each of the candidates has established his or her priorities and government plans in case of winning. The most recurrent themes were corruption and transparency, security, urban planning, and social and economic development. As a symbol of a closed competition, the meetings have not been free of attacks and insults among candidates.

Nuevo León debate organized by Nuevo León ¿Cómo Vamos? (in Spanish)

Nuevo León debate organized by the University of Monterrey (in Spanish)

Nuevo León debate organized by electoral authorities (in Spanish)

Nuevo León debate organized by El Norte (in Spanish)

In Michoacán, electoral authorities organized two debates. All the candidates were invited. Given the latest developments in the state, it was no surprise that much of the discussion centered on proposals and recriminations on the subject of security.

Michoacán first debate (in Spanish)

In Guerrero, state electoral authorities hosted a debate among all candidates for the governorship. As in the case of Michoacán, security was a recurring issue in all of the speeches and proposals. The candidates also addressed issues of poverty, tourism, public health, and social development.

Guerrero first debate (in Spanish)

Other entities such as Sonora, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Baja California Sur, and Campeche also carried out one or two debates among candidates. In most states, there were other spaces where candidates contrast their proposals.

Querétaro first debate (in Spanish)

Sonora first debate (in Spanish)

Undoubtedly, the debates are important to the electorate, as they are spaces in which the contrast of ideas and positions is clearer than in speeches and/or political rallies. Of course, these kind of democratic exercises also serve to discredit and attack the opponents, which is also a good sign of democracy, as the political act is not without the clash of ideas. It is positive that debates in Mexico are becoming more common and that the both citizens and the media see these spaces as the right place to bounce ideas among the various candidates. Hopefully, these exercises will also help to increase citizen participation in the elections next Sunday.

 

 

ELECTION MONITOR 04.30.15

By Pedro Valenzuela Parcero

Campaigns’ content and low enthusiasm for the election

According to a study requested by the National Electoral Institute (INE), only 47% of Mexicans know the correct date of the legislative elections, a figure that rises to 51% in states where there is also a gubernatorial election. Furthermore, only 38% of voters intend to vote on Election Day, although some of them indicated that they will either spoil the ballot or leave it blank. That number increases to 45% in states with gubernatorial elections.

These figures are in line with historical data in Mexico. According to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, voter turnout in the legislative elections in Mexico was 44.61% in 2009, 41.68% in 2003, and 57.69% in 1997. These numbers are lower in comparison with the turnout for legislative elections when there are also Presidential elections. For example in 2012, the turnout was 62.45%, and in 2006, it was 58.60%.

According to a study by BGC, 80% of voters believe that the campaigns are concentrating more on criticizing opponents than spreading proposals. According to their study, the most effective campaigns have been those of the PAN and the PVEM (Green Party), followed by the PRI. In the case of the PAN, their criticism of government corruption and their promises of improving security are the two most remembered issues. For the Greens, voters acknowledge that the party has already fulfilled some proposals related to health and security; in the case of the PRI, both criticism of PAN corruption and other benefits of the reforms already approved during this administration are recognized by voters.

 

An example of this last situation is the gubernatorial race for the northern state of Sonora, which has recently received attention for other reasons. The leading candidates of both the PRI and the PAN have been involved in headline-making scandals on the front pages of the major national newspapers. For the PRI, the candidate was accused of improperly benefiting contractors in federal biddings and then was also accused of misusing a foreign-registered aircraft during the campaign. In the case of the PAN, the candidate has been accused of paying for the use of a plane owned by his wife with campaign contributions and was also accused of receiving a multi-million tax-amnesty by the state government. These recent revelations highlight the heated level of the political battle in Mexico and highlight the fact that it has become key to disqualify the opponent. Furthermore, the events in Sonora are surprising since those accusations and the evidence around them are not gathered easily.

In conclusion, these elections have very clear issues to face, such as security in some states, social unrest derived from the missing students, and corruption scandals at all levels of government. However, if these ingredients are coupled with the fact that political participation is generally lower in midterm elections, then it is clear that the challenge of attracting voters is enormous. In this context, is uncertain if political communication strategies chosen by the parties during these campaigns will encourage voter turnout, or in fact could have the opposite effect, lowering participation.

 

ELECTION MONITOR 04.15.15

By Pedro Valenzuela Parcero

Security and the Elections

The leaders of almost all of the political parties, except MORENA and Movimiento Ciudadano, met last week with the Secretary of the Interior, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, to agree to a series of measures to ensure candidates’ safety and to analyze security concerns regarding certain regions across the country.

As a result of the meeting, both the parties and the Secretary reported that there are optimal conditions throughout the country to develop the electoral process harmoniously. However, they also agreed to put in place coordination measures to ensure the correct development of the campaigns, such as: the establishment of a dialogue table with party leaders and authorities to report and monitor potential issues, and deepening communication with some groups that have been advocating against the elections such as the teachers union in Guerrero (CETEG for its Spanish acronym), the parents of the missing students of Ayotzinapa, and other groups. In addition, the authorities shared some potential trouble spots, located in parts of Guerrero, Michoacán, and Tamaulipas, with the party leaders, so that they can monitor them and take them into account when campaigning.

Asserting that the election is in danger due to security would be a mistake. It is positive that the federal government met with party leaderships and so is the fact that they share the diagnosis of security in certain regions of the country that have higher risks. It is also true that security is a shared responsibility between the federal and local governments but also the parties must provide or have control over the candidates that are representing them in the elections.

On the other side, it is yet to see if the government is actually opening communication channels with groups that don’t want the election to take place. In this sense, it will be responsibility of all parties, levels of governments, and civil society to speak out about the key role that elections have in a democracy and highlight to the public opinion why is way better to have elections and vote that not to do it.

National Electoral Institute Sanctions to the Parties

On April 8 and 12, the Complaints Commission of the National Electoral Institute (INE) ordered the suspension of two campaigns started by the Partido Verde Ecologista (PVEM). The first campaign involved free movie tickets that promoted the party, and the second one was the delivery of school supplies with a partisan agenda and with products not authorized by the electoral law. The commission argued that the party was violating the principles of fairness in the electoral race, and prohibited all campaign strategies that linked specific benefits with the parties. Such penalties are in addition to the recent revocation of a couple of ads from the PAN and the PRI. In them, political parties cross accusations about alleged corruption acts and the Institute determined that they were defamatory, ordering their immediate suspension.

In the case of the PVEM, the suspensions add to several economic sanctions that the party has received in the last few months by the misuse of promotional media with fines that have reached more than $10 million dollars, which have even affected some television and radio stations through which those advertisements were promoted. The fines, ordered by the Complaints Commission of the Institute and endorsed by the Electoral Court of the Judiciary Branch, apply for spreading messages that do not follow the model of political communication, using social programs to promote the party, and using prohibited methods of advertising, such as promotion in theaters and through short message services (SMS).

With these actions, the INE is accomplishing the difficult task of regulating and sanctioning misdemeanors of the political parties during the campaigns. At the same time, it is setting the tone for the political debate by setting precedents on how to treat cross accusations from the political parties and candidates.

While sanctions and suspensions are intended to enforce the current regulatory framework, in social media and political rallies these actions are likely to continue occurring. For example, the PRI already mentioned that it will respond strongly to the opposition, the PAN has called on its followers to film and upload to social networks similar material to what the INE forbade them, and PVEM has increased its advertising in Mexico City. In terms of regulating campaigns, political advertising is clearly among the most important challenges that the INE has in this election.

Election Monitor 04.06.15

By Pedro Valenzuela Parcero

The Campaign Starts

Federal and local campaigns began yesterday, April 5, in Mexico. The national leaders of the main political parties were in key places supporting their candidates for federal deputies and governors:

  • PRI arranqueCésar Camacho, from the PRI, was in Nuevo León, where the state governor will be elected. During the rally, he said that the left tolerated and brought to power criminals, while the right has been inconsistent and ineffective over the past 12 years. With those arguments, he emphasized, the PRI will win these elections.
  • PAN arranqueGustavo Madero, from the PAN, was in Michoacán, where he said that Guerrero and Michoacán, both states where a new governor will be elected, are “hot spots” because of the institutional weaknesses that they present. Madero was also in Querétaro, a state which he declared is a high priority for his party.
  • PRD arranqueCarlos Navarrete, from the PRD, was also in Michoacán, where he said that his party will focus on pulling Michoacán out from the “night” it has been in lately. At the same time, he emphasized that the security conditions ahead of the elections should be assessed by the Minister of the Interior, the parties, and the candidates in at least 4 states: Tamaulipas, Estado de México, Michoacán, and Guerrero.
  • arranque MORENAMartí Batres, from MORENA, said that the only useful vote is for his political party, as the other political forces are all the same. He was at a rally for a federal deputy candidate in the Estado de México.

To read more about the challenges facing the political parties, see the conversations and events that we had with national leaders of the PRIPAN, and PRD.

Elections in Guerrero

For days, the National Electoral Institute (INE) has been engaged in a public debate with the teachers’ union in Guerrero (CETEG). The union has indicated that the only way they will let the elections happen is if the 43 students from Ayotzinapa appear alive. Under this condition, the CETEG has been pressuring authorities through blockades and protests, including the detention of officials. CETEG leaders have emphasized that an important portion of the polling stations have to be installed in schools, threatening to impede it. On the other side, the INE and local authorities have indicated that the way teachers are conducting the negotiation is not correct and that they will not tolerate violations and acts intending to derail the legal implementation of this electoral process. In the same vein, the interim governor of Guerrero has said that the main task of all the authorities is to guarantee that the elections occur.

It remains to be seen whether the CETEG continue their protests mainly against local and federal authorities or whether they attempt to intervene in the political campaigns themselves. Also, it will be important to see how the candidates, parties, and authorities will discuss the delicate and sad topic of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, which has shaken the credibility of the entire political system in Guerrero and has had a profound impact on politics nationwide.