Saturday, 6 June 2015

Mexican elections, Sunday 7 June

There are 'mid-term' elections in Mexico tomorrow.

Basic reading:
and here's a local newspaper report with information for voters on how to vote and more.
images of voter registration cards here.

The President and members of the Senate were elected in 2012 for six years. The members of the lower house (Chamber of Deputies), the governors of 9 of 31 states and head of government of the Distrito Federal (= D.F. = Mexico City) and state legislators face elections now, as do mayors in 15 states..

There are 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies, of which 300 are elected from individual electorates with first-past-the-post voting, the other 200 elected from five multi-state constituencies, each electing 40 by proportional representation.

We are in Guanajuato, capital of the state of Guanajuato, where we hope to take a peek at voting day.

Guanajuato, Guanajuato, 3pm Friday 5 June 2015
Lest you imagine it's all fire crackers...
There were a few people just out of view to the right
but yes, the candidate was hiding behind her prepared speech
and reading so so awkwardly.

We would not go near polling in D.F.. International media have been and will continue to focus on violence. The most blatant killing was this week of a candidate in his D.F. campaign office.

Our poll of five taxi drivers in D.F. earlier this week:

  • 2 will not vote 'because they are all the same': todos los mismos
  • 2 will vote
  • one too busy listing the things we had not seen in D.F. and telling us a week was too long in GTO

The major political parties are:

PRI: In government for seven decades, emerging from the post-1910-revolution turmoil, the PRI was described in 1990 by Maria Vargas Llosa as the perfect dictatorship. The PRI governed largely without opposition, the first real challenge arising from its own ranks when the 'left' opposed centrist policies the government was adopting in 1987. They formed what is now called the...

PRD: might have won the 1988 presidential elections but dirty stuff happened and the PRI kept the presidency. (The president is appointed for one term only, the outgoing president fixed this election.)

PAN, the National Action Party, won presidential elections in 2000 (Fox) and 2006 (Calderon) but lost to the PRI in 2012. A lurch to the right, close attachment to George W Bush and problems...

The long rule of the PRI meant inevitable corruption generally as it would anywhere including New South Wales, Australia but in a situation of deep poverty in regional areas, poor payment of public employees not least police, plus the massive growth of the narco traffic through Mexico to the insatiable market in the USA, meant that in large parts of the country the narcos controlled government, directly or by gun at the head of anyone who thought otherwise.

Pitching the Mexican federal government head first into a war with the narcos, Calderon in 2006 threw large areas of Mexico into disorder and violence. Near 100,000 deaths, but compare the Iraq war body count I embedded on this page in 2003.

It is said that under Peña Nieto, the PRI candidate elected in 2012, violence is diminishing. By exertion of force, replacement of local security authorities, etc. These are not simple issues.

NOTED ADDED JULY 2017: The arrest of El Chapo and his extradition to the US has left behind instability and ferocious conflict for power of all the bad business, causing a rise in violence and murder statistics. A commentary on Mexico and its democracy by a founder of the Sydney Democracy Network, a Sydney politics professor seems shallow,  he seems to have been ill-prepared. 

A major issue in these elections is education policy reform. Education policy reform is difficult anywhere and especially when led by fools as in Australia. It amazes me how we in Australia make a mess, in a country ranking second on the UNDP's Index of Human Development, of things we should be able to deal with sensibly and reaonably. I am reminded of times working in Beijing in the 1980s, daily being engaged by open-talking Chinese leaders in discussion of huge issues, then waking next morning to Radio Australia news in which shouting little people of importance seemed to be comparing the pimples on their bottoms. And yet we tend arrogantly to look down on other countries which try to address huge issues with fewer resources than we have.

The Mexican education policy issues are far more complex than anything we could be confronted by, though there is a bit of comparison available in the way we in Australia muck up education in indigenous communities. (In my view we will never succeed there while we harp on giving little Aboriginal children English literacy while the education system they enter shows little if any regard for the fact that a five year old girl in a remote indigenous community arrives at school speaking perhaps three languages not English and deeply spiritually, culturally and socially immersed in a cosmology utterly alien to crass western values.)

Federal education authorities in Mexico want efficiency which as usual means more central control, less flexibility to local circumstance and greater assessment of teachers, which latter has the unions in revolt.

There are deep troubles as to how education reforms impact in regions where multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-language issue are dominant. Please see 'some reading resources...' which I put in the right hand column of this blog last year. Note that the issue of 'the 43' is at the juncture of all this. The students disappeared and murdered last year we from poor villages, in a poor teacher training institution, destined to teach in the kinds of resource-negligible villages from which they come and which are very vulnerable to any centrist measures of 'efficiency'.

For students and others the old stink of 1968 combined with things that happened in Peña Nieto's time as governor of the State of Mexico and those recently (though The Guardian like other international media engages in fly-in-fly-out-each-crisis reporting) pull down the PRI's prospects at these elections.

There is also the pressure of economic events, with one third of government revenue from oil sales and the sharp decline in oil prices, a three percent cut to the national budget in January and heavy expenditure on security. Lest one imagine trade in such things as oil is free under NAFTA, note this.

We shall see in the next few days... Peña Nieto surely hoping to do a Cameron.

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