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Local Elections in Mexico Foretell a Fierce Presidential Race

Estudiantes mexicanos protestando contra el partido político "PRI" y el Presidente Peña. Imagen compartida en Flickr por la usuaria <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/julielouisa/7176641341/in/photolist-bWbarx-bWbkzM-cdxoTh-cdxAVA-ctkg2f-bWbcFv-ghmh1N-gkc6T1-gk6hUo-gjVTKL-gmqJPL-bWbdKR-gU8SR-c1X5Gs-ctmt5Y-c1Z36j-c4zi2Q-bR5ZVn-c1TQXW-ctjmuW-c1Xuzs-c1ZcWE-bR61EB-c1XypW-c1UiSf-eUT1JX-ctjYQj-c1VZx1-c1VJDA-c4zn2Q-c1VcVA-c1Y79j-eUT27x-ctmJwG-c1XNuE-ctjMd9-cFg1Pm-dfZuGG-ctmocN-cw39Tf-c4zmrJ-23ZR4-ctksEy-dBuxk2-c1UUs5-23ZSB-ctjgkj-c3YUNy-c1YH8J-c1YL3b/">Julie Louisa Hagenbuch</a>, utilizada en términos de la licencia <em><a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">Creative Commons 2.0</a>.</em>

Mexican students protesting against the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) and President Peña. Image shared on Flickr by user Julie Louisa Hagenbuch, used in terms of the Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Local elections last Sunday in Mexico were the country's last round of voting before the presidential election next year, when Mexicans will choose between the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which has ruled politics for 70 of the last 100 years, or an alternative group, like when voters between 2000 and 2012 supported the conservative-led National Action Party, or PAN, for the presidency.

Last weekend, voters elected three governors (in Coahuila, the State of Mexico, and Nayarit), as well as dozens of local legislators and mayors.

The most hotly anticipated results were in the State of Mexico's, the birthplace of President Enrique Peña, and home to about 13 percent of Mexico's national electorate. Historically, the region has been a PRI stronghold, and official preliminary results indeed favored the PRI candidate, Alfredo del Mazo, who happens to be President Peña's cousin.

The candidate of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) came closely in second, handing another defeat to the leader of the party and three-time leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Captura de pantalla del Programas de Resultados Electorales Preliminares correspondiente al Estado de México.

Screenshot of the Preliminary Electoral Results Programs corresponding to the State of Mexico.

The results of the contests in other states were similarly disappointing for MORENA supporters, apparently losing to PAN's candidates both in Nayarit and Coahuila, the latest in a race still too close to call. In other words, things look good for Mexico's party of power, heading into next year's presidential race.

There has also been controversy surrounding some of the voting. Writing for the website of El Mañanero Diario, journalist and politician Beatriz Pagés tried to summarize the events on Voting Day:

Todos se declararon absurdamente triunfadores al mismo tiempo y a la misma hora en Nayarit, Coahuila y en el Estado de México provocando confusión, desconfianza en el proceso y en las instituciones electorales.

Pocos países han hecho tantas reformas, como éste [México], para dar legalidad y certidumbre a los comicios y sin embargo, a la manera de un democracia bananera y primitiva, los partidos se dedicaron, más que nunca, a recibir dinero ilegal, a calumniar al adversario, a comprar simpatías y a violar la ley, hasta en los más mínimos detalles.

Everyone absurdly declared themselves victors at the same time and hour in Nayarit, Coahuila, and the State of Mexico, causing confusion and distrust in the process and in the electoral institutions.

Few countries have made so many reforms, such as this one [Mexico], to give legality and certainty to the elections, and yet, in the manner of a banana republic and primitive democracy, parties have more than ever dedicated themselves to accepting illegal money, slandering their opponents, buying sympathy, and breaking the law — even in the smallest ways.

Citizens’ reactions

Prior to Election Day, nearly all the political parties fielding candidates in a race exchanged accusations and recriminations: from allegations against the National Regeneration Movement of illicit campaign fundraising to charges that the PRI bought votes. Discussing the problem in the State of Mexico, philanthropist and anti-corruption activist Claudio X. González tweeted:

I don’t know who will win the State of Mexico election; I do know that, in a real democracy, that election would be annulled by irregularities committed by all.

On the triumph of PRI's Del Mazo in the State of Mexico, Twitter user Rodolfo Aceves commented:

The problem with the victory of #DelMazo with 33 percent of the votes is that it gives him a poor legitimacy. You will have to rule with the opposition.

Twitter user Zay L. Yañez was one of many people who referred to the illegal practice of “buying votes,” for which PRI is most notorious:

96 years of PRI administrations in the State of Mexico?
Voter hauling
Buying votes
Exceeding campaign spending
Cancellation of voting booths
#ElectoralFraud

On this same subject, another Twitter user pointed out that there are people who sell their votes because they are in great need:

I wouldn’t judge anyone who, out of hunger and need, decides to sell their vote. They are also victims of a system that long ago abandoned them.

For his part, Iván Viñas shared the following note about the result in Nayarit, a state located in northwest Mexico:

Hey, listen, I know that nobody ever thinks of Nayarit. But the PRI lost there for the first time.

It should be noted that the comment is imprecise, since between 1999 and 2005, Nayarit was governed by a person who emerged from the ranks of the opposition and not the PRI.

Regarding the setback suffered by MORENA led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador (also known as AMLO), user Wonder Wolfman commented:

The fault of the defeat of MORENA is AMLO
He divided the vote
He insulted his possible allies
Terrible candidate
Mismanagement of media

Finally, in the midst of a climate of unpunished homicides against journalists in Mexico, the non-governmental organization Article 19 published data on such attacks on Election Day:

#ATTENTION: the website Break the Fear documented 16 attacks against the press during #2017Elections: 12 in the State of Mexico and 4 in Coahuila.

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