State Elections Leave Political Parties Scrambling

Elections in the states of Mexico, Coahuila, Nayarit and Veracruz on 4 June have raised many pressing questions in the Mexican political sphere. Voting in each of these states has its own local implications, but at the national level their effects are crucial, leading parties to revise strategies, make internal rearrangements and consider external alliances.

 

Alfredo del Mazo’s victory as the State of Mexico’s governor is interpreted within the PRI, mainly among the “Golden Boys” clique (the young members of the Atlacomulco group, including President Enrique Pena Nieto), as allowing the party to maintain its hegemony in the 2018 general elections. However, the PRI’s margin over the leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) was less than 3% (about 170,000 votes). Despite the party’s largesse, which was supported by all federal ministries, it was unable to score a resounding victory. Furthermore, many citizens were allegedly coerced, intimidated or bribed to vote for the PRI, although substantiated figures are unavailable.

 

AMLO’s reaction to MORENA’s loss is striking. His behavior is much less aggressive than when he lost the presidential elections in 2006 and 2012. Once more, AMLO has said that electoral fraud was committed and has demanded that ballots be recounted one by one. However, his body language does not show the same anger as before, indicating that the coming struggle will be peaceful. Realistically, the possibility of reversing the election results is very remote, and the discrepancies will likely be solved through lengthy judicial processes. Nevertheless, AMLO seems happy: he believes he has almost 2mn more votes in his pocket for 2018 and he does not have to negotiate with the other stubborn leftist leaders in the State of Mexico to build a government. Additionally, above all, he can now capitalize on the growing belief that the “mafia of power” has yet again committed electoral fraud. This is critical, because his strength feeds on society’s rage.

 

AMLO is also continuing his strategy of strengthening ties with Mexico’s influential entrepreneurs. Marcos Fastlicht, a powerful investor in luxury real estate development, and Miguel Torruco, an associate of Carlos Slim’s, both support him. AMLO has also received the support of the Group of 10 (the new name of the Monterrey Group). Its members reject Pulsar Holding CEO Alfonso Romo acting as a liaison between entrepreneurs and MORENA, instead preferring Adolfo Hellmund – an entrepreneur and energy expert from Tamaulipas who developed AMLO’s economic program in 2012.

 

The 4 June elections were painful for the National Action Party (PAN). In the State of Mexico, the PAN only came in fourth place, with much fewer votes than in previous times. The party is losing strength as a viable option for change, prompting mutual recriminations among some of its key figures. Thus, former first lady Margarita Zavala has accused the national leader of her party, Ricardo Anaya, of being responsible for the electoral loss.

 

Trying to stave off further losses, the PAN is now concentrating all of its energy on winning Coahuila, where electoral fraud is also suspected. Based on ballot irregularities, PAN candidate Guillermo Anaya has initiated demonstrations in Coahuila against PRI candidate Miguel Angel Riquelme being declared the winner. Analysts accuse Governor Ruben Moreira of manipulating the election, in collusion with electoral officials. The Electoral Institute of Coahuila (IEC)’s rapid count gave the victory to Anaya with a 2% lead, but the Preliminary Election Results Program (PREP), which tallies the polling centers’ certificates, indicated that Riquelme won with a 1.5% margin. However, the IEC website announced the closure of the PREP with all 3,628 certificates accounted for, even though only 72% were actually counted. With almost a third of the voting certificates missing from the count, angry citizens have taken to the streets to protest. Additionally, the two other losing candidates (one independent and one from MORENA) now support the PAN in the fight against Coahuila’s electoral fraud.

 

By contrast, Nayarit’s elections passed without incident. Antonio Echevarria, the candidate of a coalition of the PAN, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the Labor Party (PT) and the small local Party of the Socialist Revolution (PRS), won with a nearly 12% lead. Likewise, Veracruz’s 203 mayoral elections were held smoothly; the PAN-PRD alliance won 112, the PRI won 40 and MORENA netted 17.

 

Tellingly, in social networks, rejections of the PRI and fears that AMLO is leading Mexico to a Venezuela-style catastrophe are multiplying. The 2018 general elections are already shaping up to be very intense.