Ask Barack Obama. The Washington Post recently reported on a sun-kissed Cancun shindig where the US president’s 2008 campaign team flew in to share its secrets with strategists from Mexico’s top parties. “It’s an export business,” Tom Edmonds, head of the International Association of Political Consultants, bragged to the paper. “We are imprinting our way of doing things on countries around the world.” Admission was US$900 per head.
The candidates fighting for the keys to Los Pinos (the Mexican White House) are right-winger Josefina Vazquez Mota of the incumbent National Action Party (PAN) – Mexico’s first major female presidential hopeful – leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) – who narrowly lost to President Felipe Calderon in 2006 – and Enrique Pena Nieto of the PRI; the country’s former 71-year ruling dynasty.
Some guy called Gabriel Quadri de la Torre of the embarrassingly-opportunistic teachers’ union-cum-political outfit New Alliance (PANAL) is also in the fray, though barely. His recent comment before an indigenous community that “Mexicans should stop running ourselves down; we’re all middle-class” should see his non-existent hopes sunk even further. PANAL is widely regarded as a vanity project of the teaching union’s “leader-for-life” Elba Esther Gordillo.
The unfortunate souls entrusted with refereeing this slugfest are the men and women of Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE). After the disputed 2006 race, which involved a blatant “dirty war” by Felipe Calderon’s business-oriented PAN against the popular Lopez Obrador, IFE has imposed strict rules on just what goes in 2012. Parties can no longer buy TV spots (the corporate media is devastated), candidates have a spending cap of 336 million pesos (US$25.6 million), and negative campaigning, as a whole, is banned.