By Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer
The ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations and Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall at the Mexican-American border will both get an airing in Mexico’s forthcoming presidential election, scheduled for next July.
A Mexican president can serve only one six-year term, so there will be no incumbent.
Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), won election in 2012 against two major opponents.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the candidate of a left-wing coalition formed by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the Convergence Citizens’ Movement, and the Labour Party (PT), ran second. Josefina Vazquez Mota of the right-of centre (PAN) came third.
The PRI had ruled Mexico continuously for more than 70 years, until losing power to the PAN in the 2000 vote, 12 years earlier.
In 2006, Lopez Obrador, then the PRD candidate, suffered a razor thin loss to the PAN’s Felipe Calderon, with the PRI’s Roberto Madrazo running third. It was the PAN’s second victory, coming after Vincente Fox’s breakthrough in 2000.
Lopez Obrador and his supporters cried fraud. He had himself declared “the legitimate president” of Mexico as his constituents took to the streets for weeks of protest in Mexico City.
Recent polls now show Lopez Obrador, who broke with the PRD in 2014 and who now leads the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), as the front-runner ahead of next year’s presidential election. Respondents selected the PAN second, with the PRI third. Neither has yet chosen their nominee.
Pena Nieto has become increasingly unpopular with Mexicans, seen as not standing up to Trump on NAFTA or the border wall, and his PRI is suffering accordingly.
The right-wing PAN party, which ruled the country from 2000 to 2012, has three main candidates: Margarita Zavala, a former legislator and wife of ex-President Felipe Calderon; Ricardo Anaya, the current party leader; and Rafael Moreno Valle, the former governor of the state of Puebla.
Among those the PRI may choose are Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray, and the Minister of the Interior and former governor of the state of Hidalgo, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.
As for the PRD, its main contender appears to be Miguel Angel Mancera, the current mayor of Mexico City.
Lopez Obrador’s campaign is focused on criticisms of corruption and neoliberal policies under the previous three governments.
PRI leaders have been allegedly involved in bribery schemes costing the country an estimated $450 million, according to the anti-corruption watchdog PRENDE, at the Universidad Ibero-Americano.
Lopez Obrador also wants to give voice to the more indigenous populations of Mexico, who often are seen as second class citizens to the Spanish-descended ruling elites.
Many of them have seen NAFTA in negative terms, arguing that it has destroyed Mexico’s rural economy and forced dependency on American imports.
Lopez Obrador has also declared that if he wins the presidency, he will kill an energy reform law that opened oil and gas to private investments in 2013.
Trump’s election has triggered a rise in Mexican nationalism: A poll in July found that 88 per cent of Mexicans viewed him unfavorably.
Mexican officials have warned White House aides that Trump’s behavior could help make the forthcoming election a referendum on which candidate is the most anti-American.
A victory for the combative Lopez Obrador, in his third try for the top job, could increase tensions with the Trump administration.
In a speech Sept. 5 at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute in Washington, Lopez Obrador declared that “the 50 Mexican consulates in the U.S., in a short period of time, will fully take on the defence of Mexicans and migrants in the U.S.”
Meanwhile, the PAN and PRD, despite their ideological differences, have called for a “broad alliance” and the installation of a coalition government in an attempt to oust the ruling PRI party and halt Lopez Obrador next year.
They depict him as a demagogue who would create the same chaos in Mexico that Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela.
He in turn called the proposed coalition an alliance of sycophants and a “mafia of power.”