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.