Sunday night, before polls had even closed and before all the votes had been collected throughout Mexico, sources were already assuming that Enrique Peña Nieto had won the presidential seat. By the end of the night, it was clear that the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) candidate had most likely won his seat.
Peña Nieto was running against two other candidates, Andrés Manuel López Obrador from the left, and Josefina Vázquez Mota from the National Action Party (PAN). López Obrador has not conceded defeat, waiting until every single vote has been counted in the coming days. Ms. Vázquez Mota did concede defeat, taking the third spot in the presidential race.
López Obrador, along with a strong student and social movement, has accused Peña Nieto of buying off television broadcasters in order to gain the upper hand in the elections. The PRI candidate has been consistently noted for his persona in the media. The student movement has involved many members from the community with vibrant marches and protests over the last few months. They have also accused Peña Nieto of financial corruption in funding his campaign.
Students have demanded more democracy in the political process and for officials to address social issues in the Mexican context. Many fear that with the return of power to the PRI with Peña Nieto, a party that ruled for 71 years in the twentieth century, will herald the decay of democracy. For much of those 71 years the PRI prevailed in politics through a tightly-knit patronage system, until Vicente Fox from the PAN won the presidency in 2000.
The question remains, why have the PRI prevailed in this election if the recent claims that Peña Nieto had an unfair advantage in the media ring false? Reuters quotes Mexico City resident, Raimundo Salazar as saying “Nothing has improved since the PAN got in… The PRI understands how things work here. And it knows how to manage the drug gangs.”
Undoubtedly the violence over the last six years has stayed fresh in residents’ minds. The Wall Street Journal points out that about 55,000 people have been killed in drug related violence over the last six years during current president, Felipe Calderon’s, term. Peña Nieto has vowed to cut down on violent crime across the board.
Many people who support the PRI candidate also feel reassured that he brought down debt and pushed for economic growth during his 2005-2011 term as governor of the State of Mexico.
López Obrador will likely continue to challenge Peña Nieto’s victory in the coming weeks as the final votes are counted. Reuters states that López Obrador challenged Calderon’s victory in 2006 as well after a very close race.
Although Peña Nieto had been leading in the polls for all of June with a clear edge on the other two presidential candidates, many are still unsure about his claims to honesty and success. He claims that he has learned lessons from the old PRI regime, which was corrupt and dictatorial for so many decades.
The challenge will be for Peña Nieto to actually implement changes such as bigger growth in the economy (it has been slowly growing at 2 percent for the last six years) and a decrease in the violent deaths of citizens due to the drug wars sweeping through the country. Although Peña Nieto has been quoted as saying, “Let it be very clear: There will be no deal, no truce with organized crime,” it remains to be seen how he will change the game with organized crime leaders.
López Obrador’s challenges to the victory also remind citizens of Mexico and the world of the often delicate strand of democracy. Most analysts are certain that López Obrador will be hard pressed to find enough evidence to prevail in legal action against Peña Nieto in the coming months so it is more than likely the PRI candidate will be sworn in in December without a hitch, taking over for current president Felipe Calderon.
AP Photo/Christian Palma