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June 30, 2006

Making Sense of Sunday's Election in Mexico

Or . . .Turbulence on our Southern Border as Walker calls it.  Walker at his blog, Choosing Hope, has a nice explanatory post up on Sunday's once-every-six-years election in Mexico.  I'm putting the entire thing up, it's that good:

Mexicans this weekend face a difficult choice as they try to read the tea leaves as to what a radical change of course would really mean. Those who genuinely long for reforms aimed at supporting the aspirations of the poor and weakening the grip of the wealthy and powerful on the purse strings of the country must be tempted by the populist promises of López Obrador, candidate of the Party of Democratic Revolution. But concerns that his numbers don't add up, and that his programs would wreck the economy, or that his messianic message would usher in a cult of personality damaging to democratic ideals are giving pause to many.

In 2000, Vicente Fox came in and ended 71 years of rule by the PRI, ending an era dominated by corruption. His business friendly policies were hardly welcomed by populists or the left. Felipe Calderón is the standard bearer of Fox's party, PAN, and promises stability. Recent polls show him trailing Obrador, but only by a few points. PRI candidate, Roberto Madrazo, is painting himself as the moderate between extremes on the right and the left, but trails the leaders in the polls by 8 or 9 points. PRI remains Mexico's largest party, but years of corruption have earned them plenty of distrust.

The possibility of an Obrador victory is at once the most exciting outcome and the scariest. Who can reliably predict how such changes will play out? When Robert Mugabe was elected President of Zimbabwe 26 years ago on the strength of a populist message there was great celebrating, but it took very little time for his rule to betray signs of tyranny, and today Zimbabwe stands in ruins while Mugabe lives in walled splendor as was sadly reported on last night's Frontline on PBS. My guess is that Obrador is genuine in his pronouncements now, but is he realistic or would his policies work?

The right will no doubt reflexively pull out the standard repeated failure of socialism meme and declare that Obrador would be a disaster, but as ever it will depend on the details, not on the putative ideology of the leader or his party. For now, anyway, there does not seem to be the fear and loathing from the usual quarters in U.S. politics against Obrador as we have seen against Hugo Chavez of Venezuela or Evo Morales of Bolivia. Of course he hasn't been elected yet.

An additional fear that hangs over this Mexican election is that Obrador is already accusing the ruling party of attempted fraud, so even if Calderón prevails, some see the likelihood of unrest in the wake of such charges.

Posted by Lynn Allen on June 30, 2006 at 09:48 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink

Comments

Its almost like they're saying that we all know what is wrong with Mexico: the economic system isn't fair, is benefits the dirty and the greedy and forces the poor either to remain poor or cross the border. But, while Obrador is the one candidate that would probably have the political will to change that, we don't know if he actually will.

Isn't it strange that the one thing that could stem the tide of immigrants coming across the boarder, a stronger and fairer Mexican economy, could be most likely delivered by the leftist canidate?

Minutmen socialists?

Posted by: Emmett O'Connell | Jun 30, 2006 11:30:42 PM

Yes. I remember how excited I was when Vicente Fox was elected. I thought that breaking the back of the PRI and bringing some economic sense to Mexico would make such a difference. It didn't. Now the question will be, perhaps if Obrador makes it, can he help develop both bring a fairer economy for Mexico while combatting what will undoubtedly be resistance from the forces of priviledge both in Mexico and in the US.

Posted by: Lynn | Jul 1, 2006 1:22:54 AM

One of the problems I have with the conversation around Mexican economic development (and for South America and the rest of the world for that matter) is the discussion on the importance of direct government spending to lift folks out of poverty. Maybe I'm seeing this a bit one dimesionaly from what is going on now.

But, it seems that the real American success economically was not from direct government welfare programs (while important in a justice sense), but in the government regulation that tended to spread the wealth. The SEC which ensured fairness and an equal playing field in securities, the FDIC which made the banking system transparent, safe and fair, and other developments made it possible for people to take control of their own lives.

Posted by: Emmett O'Connell | Jul 2, 2006 12:34:46 AM

Emmett,

It seems to me that countries that rely on direct government spending are generally rather totalitarian, i.e. Saudi Arabia and Venuzuela. That's different than government spending on the infrastructure, i.e. good education, childcare and transportation. Those are the governments that tend to focus on what creates the conditions for a high quality of life.

But your earlier comment led me in the direction of thinking about how much more radicalized people are getting than they would have been if GWB and his gang had played their cards a bit more subtly. I'm thinking both people in this country and around the world who are now playing with thoughts of more radical overhauls of the economy and political landscape.

I'm saying all this prior to hearing the results of the election in Mexico which are still too close to call.

Posted by: Lynn | Jul 2, 2006 10:41:47 PM

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