Apr 10th, 2018, 02:08 PM

Who are the Candidates for the Mexican Election?

By Teresa Segovia
Image credit: Flickr /iivangm
Months away from the Mexican Election, a high percentage of Mexicans are struggling to identify with the candidates.

On March 30, 2018, campaigning for the Mexican election started. However, parties had a pre-campaign process in which they selected the candidates which they intend to contend in the election. It is all the public acts, promotional events realized by the parties, militants and the pre-candidates according to the statutes of each party before they officially become candidates.

According to INE, the electoral institution in Mexico, during the pre-campaign, the parties have a total of thirty minutes per day for the transmission of messages in each radio station and TV channels which cover the election. 30 percent of the time distributes equally and 70 percent according to the number of votes obtained in the previous council's federal election. So even if winning the election may not be plausible, gaining the most amount of votes is possible. Pre-campaigns may not last more than sixty days. In that stage, pre-candidates can give interviews and appear in the media, but not in their party's spots or expressly call to vote, or carry out proselytizing events. During this time, speculation regarding the most relevant parties arose. 

Contenders surfaced, including the incessant leftist candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, referred to as AMLO, who has run for President twice before. In a poll conducted by POP Group Studies, results show 18 percent of the population is still undecided, 84 percent of which does not want AMLO to win and will decide based on the first and second place in the polls. 

AMLO closing his 2012 campaign for President. Image Credit: Wikicommons/ENEAS

Nonetheless, AMLO who has a degree in Political Science from The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and held office as Mexico City's mayor, is considered to be the front-runner. He has often been compared to other Latin American populist politicians, such as the late Hugo Chavez, and therefore as a "danger to Mexico." The media has called him a storm and a menace to international markets, as well as corrupt, an image which is a consequence of certain actions and statements he has made in the past such as "to hell with government institutions."

After losing the 2006 Presidential election, AMLO claimed there was electoral fraud and orchestrated a protest which blocked one of Mexico City's main roads and the historical center for months. In addition to that, he is self-proclaimed as the legitimate President of Mexico. According to El Financiero, this ended up costing his then party, the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), 500 million pesos. His political trajectory includes him as a member of the governing party Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 1976, and, later on, the PRD in 1989. Then he formed his own party Morena, in 2014. According to some, it has compelling religious symbolism to the Virgin of Guadalupe, to which 74 percent of the party PRI's followers are devoted.  

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Image Credit: Flickr/Agencia de Noticias ANDES

According to an article in Expansion, he has called out to the public to ignore the fear-based campaign against him. His rhetoric often includes supporting the middle class, economic growth, and jobs to which he claims he will invest 110,000 million pesos. He proposed amnesty and dialogue towards drug cartels in a search for peace in the war which has cost approximately 200,000 lives over the past decade. His proposal sparked controversy in Mexico.

He also demands respect from the US, and for a halt in any "meddling" with the election. According to an article in the Business Insider, John McCain has said, "But we've got a problem with Mexico. Right now there's a lot of anti-American sentiment in Mexico. If the election were tomorrow in Mexico, you would probably get a left-wing, anti-American president of Mexico. That can't be good for America." To which John Kelly responded, "Right. It would not be good for America or Mexico."

As to his stance on social issues, AMLO entered into a coalition with the Social Encounter Party (PES), a tiny party with religious roots that pushes an anti-gay and anti-abortion agenda. According to an article in Reuters, "some political analysts said a coalition with social conservatives could provide AMLO with the margin he needs to prevail in a crowded field of candidates." In a speech he had in Tabasco, labeled of a religious nature, he exposed his plans for a moral constitution by which he aspires to a "loving" republic. 

On the other hand,  Jose Antonio Meade is the governing party PRI candidate. He finds himself in a somewhat adverse situation given anti-PRI sentiment which was continuously incited by various corruption scandals regarding governing officials belonging to the party. PRI had been the governing party since 1929 until the year 2000 with the election of The National Action Party (PAN) which governed for two terms. PRI returned with the election of the current President, Enrique Peña Nieto. It is thought to be some of the most audaciously corrupt times which have Mexicans repelled by the governing party. One of the biggest including the governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte charged with corruption, money laundering, involvement in organized crime and implicated in the disappearance of journalists. President Enrique Peña Nieto has held a disapproval rate of 69 percent which profoundly affects Meade's campaign. 27percent of undecided Mexicans say they are convinced by Meade but would not vote for PRI. 

Meade was working as Mexico's Foreign Minister during the thirty-fifth session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in 2014. Image Credit: Wikicommons/Daniel Malpica

Meade distances himself from the party as someone who has worked with competing party PAN as well. Considered to have had an honest career, he has a degree as an economist from The Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM), a degree in law from The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and a Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University.

In 2002 he was the director of the National Bank of Rural Credit, which was then bankrupt. His efforts resulted in two-thousand five hundred million pesos in commercial credit. In 2011 as Secretary of Energy, he started the program "Sustainable Light" which intended to substitute forty-seven million incandescent light bulbs into energy-saving light bulbs. Later that year as Secretary of Finance, he coordinated Mexico's economic agenda in the G20 summit. In 2012 as Secretary of Foreign affairs he mediated relations between Cuba, Latin America, and the United States. In the last two presidential terms, Meade has also held Secretary of State positions, such as Social Development, where extreme poverty diminished by 18 percent during his term. During his time as Secretariat of Social Development (SEDESOL), there was a question of fiscal deviations to which he responded in interviews and cooperation with the audit. 

Regarding social change, Meade proposes supporting Mexican women as a priority, creating a safe environment, free of any assault or discrimination, social security for homemakers as well as equal pay for working women. He also focuses on eradicating extreme poverty in Mexico. Regarding education, he proposes 100,000 full-time schools with a focus on learning English, art, culture and practicing sports, as well as supporting Mexican youth with international scholarships, and giving available credit to entrepreneurs to create jobs. Concerning health, he proposes the betterment of public hospitals. Through these causes, he claims to fight the root of delinquency which he asserts is inequality.  

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., January 30, 2013. Image Credit: Wikicommons/U.S. Department of State.

The candidate for the party PAN, Ricardo Anaya, has a law degree from the Autonomous University of Queretaro, a Master's degree in tax law from University of Del Valle de Mexico and a P.h.D. from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He describes himself as a family man who intends to fight corruption and create equal opportunities for Mexicans. He says Mexico needs change. He wants a newer vision than AMLO who he claims has an antiquated view of the world. He wants to instill change by using more modern resources and technologies through a coalition between parties PAN and PRD, an alliance which surprised many because of the different nature of their ideologies. PAN a right-wing party with close ties to the Roman Catholic Church, and PRD was established by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, as a coalition of small left-wing parties. To the marvel caused by this coalition, Anaya said it was a disregard for their differences in pursuit of the greater good. 

In 2003, Anaya worked in PAN as the governor Francisco Garrido Patrón's particular secretary. In 2008 he was the coordinator of Human Development in the state government. In 2009 he worked as a legislator in the state of Queretaro as well as a coordinator for PAN in the local Congress. He has also worked as Sub-Secretary of Tourism, President of the Chamber of Deputies, National Secretary of PAN and President of PAN as well.

His candidacy is not without controversy either. He was accused of money launderingplagiarizing his speech from TED Talks, and having a luxurious lifestyle in the United States which, for some, it brings questions of the integrity of his finances. He responded to the accusations by writing a letter labeled "clarifications", which includes financial statements. His proposals include the Universal Basic Income, which implies giving a monthly allowance. Universal Basic Income is a theory supported by Nobel prize winner Milton Friedman. However, how effective would this be in a country with Mexico's circumstances is challenged. He also contends to finish with corruption and impunity, pacify the country, change the regime and recuperate Mexico's place in the world.

Ricardo Anaya was participating in the OCDE. Image Credit: Wikicommons/Gvega78

His candidacy was disputed by former first lady Margarita Zavala, who is now running as an independent candidate. She has called Anaya a mythomaniac who ignored the pre-candidacy procedures and is self-imposed as the official candidate, preventing her from campaigning herself. He responded by urging her not to run for president. Ex-members of PAN accuse him of virtually destroying the party. Former President Felipe Calderon (Zavala's husband) has expressed his disdain towards Anaya's actions as well. Calderon is most known for "his" controversial and gruesome war against drug cartels, a situation which is said to be directly related to the US demand for drugs. During his term, he publicly declared war against organized crime, and specifically the power it has to hold Mexico's compelling situation. 

According to an article in the Financial Times, there is a parallel between the 2016 US American Election and the 2018 Mexican Election. Margarita Zavala, who like Hillary Clinton is a lawyer, former legislator and presidential consort, is expected to square off against Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a hard-left candidate with a Donald Trump-like penchant for frankness, in next year’s elections in Mexico. Nevertheless, there are significant differences between Zavala and Clinton, the most important one being the support of a major party. 

Zavala has a law degree from Universidad Escuela Libre de Derecho. During her time as the first lady, she worked closely with the National Institute of Women and held a high approval rate. A 2014 poll conducted by El Universal, revealed that although 39 percent of Mexicans did not know who she was, 31 percent had her in high regards, and only 3.1 percent held negative attitudes towards her. Even with her high approval rate as the first lady, winning the Presidency as an independent candidate seems complicated. Some question if her experience is enough to win the Presidency. The POP Group polls mark her with just four percent support. The dispute over whether Zavala or Anaya should have been the candidate for PAN ended with her being an independent candidate who collected the necessary amount of signatures. 

Zavala's proposals include economic growth through deregulation of markets to simplify the economy and make starting a business easier in Mexico. She also suggests the use of "green" technologies to create a sustainable economy. In a similar policy to her husband, Zavala says she will not shy away from the military and marine forces to combat organized crime. She also speaks of justice, solidarity and bringing Mexico to high global standards.

First Lady Michelle Obama and First Lady Margarita Zavala watch the State Arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, May 19, 2010. Image Credit: Wikicommons/Pete Souza

It seems as though the mess of coalitions, scandals, and affiliations leaves no candidate unscathed. Months away from the Mexican Election, a high percentage of Mexicans struggle with identifying with the candidates. Voters seem to find it more comfortable seeing their dislikes with their choices rather than a candidate and party combination they can support. There is speculation on whether AMLO's supporters would never switch to Meade or Anaya. However, voters are assumed to be likely to oscillate between the two runner-ups in the polls.