Enrique Peña Nieto Wins Mexican Presidency
July 03, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly
On July 1, Mexicans voted in a general election for a new president, new members of the upper and lower houses of congress, new governors in six states and local positions in 12 states. Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), 45, a lawyer and former governor of the Federal District of Mexico, won the presidential race with 38 percent of the vote according to a partial count by Mexico’s election agency. According to the Wall Street Journal, it was a relatively close race, as the leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador from the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) took 31 percent of the vote. Mexico’s first competitive female presidential candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, representing the conservative party in power, the National Action Party (PAN), received 26 percent of the vote. Election officials say that the final results may vary slightly, so López Obrador has yet to concede.
Mexican voters were fed up with President Felipe Calderón’s inability to end drug related violence during his six years in office beginning in 2006. According to TIME, Mexico’s drug war has caused 55,000 deaths and 10,000 disappearances since 2006. Peña Nieto pledged during his campaign to fight the cartels, saying “there will be no pact and no truce” with traffickers and gangs. This implies that his policy will likely be similar to his predecessor’s. Peña Nieto barely earned a mandate from the public, but it seems that his centrist platform attracted voters who were disillusioned with the conservative policies of the PAN and Calderón.
Enrique Peña Nieto attempted to portray himself as the new face of the PRI, which ruled Mexico for 71 consecutive years until it lost the 2000 presidential election. The Telegraph reported that after government exit polls projected his victory, Peña Nieto told a crowd, “We are a new generation. There is no return to the past.” According to TIME, during his tenure as Governor of the Federal District of Mexico from 2005 to 2011, Peña Nieto acted more progressive than most PRI members. The PRI had become associated with cronyism and inaction after many years in control.
During his campaign, Peña Nieto expressed a desire to amend the Constitution to allow private and foreign investment in Mexico’s state-run oil company, Pemex. He is also committed to labor, tax and social security reforms. According to the World Affairs Journal, Peña Nieto focused his campaign primarily on growing the economy, which is slowly recovering.
Peña’s opponents accused his campaign of vote buying and corruption. However, according to TIME, all three of the major parties were reported to have passed out gifts such as department-store debit cards at rallies. One prominent issue during the campaign was Peña Nieto’s favorable treatment by Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa. For example, CNN’s Ruben Navarrette noted that Peña received little criticism even after admitting that he did not know the price of a package of tortillas. When accused of being out of touch with the lives of average Mexicans, he said that he wasn’t “the woman of the household.” Additionally, he admitted during an interview that he fathered two children with two women during his marriage. In other countries, such comments might have undermined his campaign.
The presidential campaign and July 1 election were not marred by violence. Patrick Corcoran of InSight Crime, monitored violence during the recent period and did not find any violent acts clearly associated with the election. However, in an article for the Christian Science Monitor, he cautioned that the lack of violence could “simply be a sign that criminal influence on the vote has gone underground.” Alternatively, influencing a presidential election could be too daunting of a task for even the largest criminal groups since the margins of victory are so large. Corcoran believes gubernatorial contests are smaller and therefore easier to influence. That could explain why there has been violence over the past few years during gubernatorial elections.
The PRI also was successful in the congressional election. Final results will not be released until July 4, but initial reports indicate that the PRI secured about 241 out of 500 seats in the lower house and 58 seats out of 128 in upper house. According to Businessweek, the PRI will need to seek alliances with the opposition to control the upper house, which will give López Obrador’s party more power to block legislation.
The PAN not only lost the presidency but also influence in the both houses of congress. According to Spanish News Agency EFE, it will now be the third largest party in the lower house with 118 seats. It previously held 142 seats. It all also lost nine seats in the upper house but will remain the second largest party with 41 seats. After the election, PRI chairman Gustavo Madero said that Mexicans should not be “indifferent to the fact that there are 10 states in the republic that have been governed without interruption by the PRI for 85 years.”
However, Mexico has changed since the PRI lost the presidency in 2000. As previously mentioned, the PRI will have to form a coalition in both houses of congress. A New York Times editorial proposes that “a more active Congress, a more independent Supreme Court, a more questioning media, [and] and a more vocal civil society” could mitigate the PRI’s dominance.
For previous news on Mexico, please see:
Mexico’s PAN Picks Female Presidential Candidate, PRI Accuses PAN of Cartel Dealings
Businessweek - Pena Nieto Claims Mexico Vote Win as PRI Returns to Power
CNN - Is Peña Nieto good news for Mexico?
EFE - Mexico's PAN suffers heavy losses in general elections
The Christian Science Monitor - Mexico's election violence-free: a turning point?
The New York Times - Mexico Elects a New President
The Telegraph - Mexico elections: Enrique Peña Nieto pledges a new era
TIME - Mexico Election: How Enrique Peña Nieto Won Himself and His Party the Presidency
The Wall Street Journal - Mexico Restores Ex-Ruling Party to Power
World Affairs Journal - What a PRI Comeback Means for Mexico