Mexico: PRI regains the presidency

On July 1 Mexicans went to the polls to elect a new president, and all 128 senators and all 500 legislative deputies in the federal Congress. New governors were being voted on in six of the 31 states—Chiapas, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos, Tabasco and Yucatán—while the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) was choosing a new head of government, the 66 DF Assembly members and the 16 delegates who represent the city’s delegaciones (boroughs). Some 79 million Mexicans were eligible to vote. (La Jornada, Mexico, July 1)

Shortly before midnight Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) president Leonardo Valdés announced the results of the rapid count for the presidential race. According to the IFE, former México state governor Enrique Peña Nieto, the candidate of a coalition including the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), had won with 37.93-38.55% of the votes counted. Former DF head of government Andrés Manuel López Obrador, running for the center-left Progressive Movement coalition, received 30.90-31.86% of the votes, and Josefina Vázquez Mota, representing the center-right National Action Party (PAN), came in third with 25.10-26.03%. Gabriel Quadri, candidate of the centrist New Alliance Party (Panal), only won 2.27-2.57% of the votes. Valdés said turnout was a little above 62%. (Prensa Latina, July 2)

The PAN has held the presidency for the last 12 years. Before the PAN’s victory in 2000, the PRI had held the presidency and dominated the country’s politics for 71 years, making Mexico virtually a one-party state.

Although Peña Nieto regularly led in opinion polls, his popularity began to slip when a student movement known as #YoSoy132 (“I’m number 132”) emerged in May to question his record as México state governor and, especially, his favorable coverage on television. The British daily The Guardian ran several articles indicating that the country’s largest network, Televisa, may have taken money to have its news programs promote Peña Nieto in 2005 and 2006, his first two years as governor.

In her latest exposé, published June 26, Guardian correspondent Jo Tuckman wrote that according to documents and unidentified sources, in 2009 Televisa set up a secret unit known as “team Handcock” that “commissioned videos promoting [Peña Nieto] and his PRI party and rubbishing the party’s rivals…. The documents suggest the team distributed the videos to thousands of email addresses, and pushed them on Facebook and YouTube, where some of them can still be seen.” Televisa was careful to make sure the videos didn’t appear to come from the network, according to one source. “Team Handcock” members were “encouraged not to use their Televisa email addresses or Televisa IPs to distribute material,” Tuckman wrote.

At least one US company was apparently paid to advise Televisa’s campaign–Blue State Digital. In one document that the Guardian saw, an employee of the US company inquired about payment for “several tasks for Televisa,” including “many conference calls and meetings to discuss the web strategy for Handcock.” Blue State Digital helped develop the internet strategy for US president Barack Obama’s successful 2008 presidential campaign. (The Guardian, June 26)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 1.

See our last post on Mexico.