AS/COA Online | Election Guide: Mexico's 2012 Vote

On July 1, nearly 80 million Mexicans will be eligible to vote in elections that could be a game changer for the country. The National Action Party (PAN) has held the presidency since 2000, when the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) finally lost its seven-decade-long power grip. Now the PRI may be poised for a return, given that from the beginning of the campaigns, PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto has polled as the frontrunner. But the race isn’t over yet. The portion of undecided voters remains in the double digits and Peña Nieto’s poll lead over second-place Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) has narrowed as the voting day nears.

Get coverage, links, polls, social media information, and more from AS/COA Online.

Quick Facts

The 2012 Mexican presidential election is July 1 and the winner will assume office on December 1. By law, Mexican presidents are restricted to one six-year term, known as a sexenio. Unlike in much of Latin America, there are no runoff elections in Mexico. The candidate who wins the largest number of votes on July 1 will replace President Felipe Calderón, who took office in 2006.

On July 1 Mexican voters will also elect all members of Congress, including 500 deputies and 128 senators. All congressmen will take office September 1. An Americas Quarterly web exclusive gives a breakdown of how many seats each party currently holds, what polls forecast for the new legislative makeup, and prospects for political reforms in the next sexenio

For the lower-house Chamber of Deputies, Mexicans will directly elect 300 deputies to represent their respective electoral districts. Another 200 deputies will be selected based on proportional representation. Deputies serve three-year terms.

In the upper-house Senate, each of Mexico’s 31 states and the Federal District will elect three senators. Two of the senators are given to the party with the largest share of the vote, and the third is given to the minority party that received the second highest number of votes. Another 32 senators are chosen by proportional representation. Senators will serve six-year terms.

Six states (Chiapas, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos, Tabasco, and Yucatan) also go to the polls to elect new governors. In addition, Mexico City will pick a new mayor—a position with powers similar to that of a state governor—on that day. Mexican governors and mayors of Mexico City serve one six-year term.

The Mexican Federal Electoral Institute reports that 79,454,802 Mexicans are registered to vote and hold the proper documentation to participate in this election. This includes 59,087 voters registered abroad, over 20,000 of whom have already submitted their ballots. Read more about Mexico’s expatriate voting procedures in an AS/COA Online explainer on Latin America diaspora voting laws

Voter turnout has been on the decline in Mexico in recent elections. While 77 percent of registered voters participated in 1994, only 64 percent turned out in 2000 and 59 percent in 2006. Some analysts believe numbers in this election should be similar to those of 2006. 

The 2012 Presidential Candidates

Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), also known as AMLO, was a founding member of the PRD. He served as mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2006, after which he launched a presidential campaign. AMLO narrowly lost that election to President Felipe Calderón and refused to concede defeat, even setting up a shadow cabinet.

Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has a long history with that party in his native state of Mexico. He held a number of positions within the state’s political party structure, and served as governor of the State of Mexico from 2005 to 2011.

Gabriel Quadri de la Torre of the Nueva Alianza (PANAL) served as an advisor to the National Institute of Ecology under President Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000). He served as chief of the External Financing sector at the Banco de México, and headed a number of environmental causes. His candidacy and party have been linked with Elba Esther Gordillo, the controversial leader of Mexico’s teacher’s union.

Josefina Vázquez Mota of the National Action Party (PAN) served as a federal deputy from 2000 to 2003, and was then appointed as the first female secretary of Social Development by President Vicente Fox, a post she held until 2006. She was a campaign coordinator for President Felipe Calderón in the 2006 election, which he won. Calderón appointed her to be his education secretary, a post she held until 2009.

The Polls

Since the beginning of the race, Peña Nieto has polled as the frontrunner. Vázquez Mota has largely taken spot number two but, leading into the final weeks, AMLO pulled ahead of her in a number of surveys. Quadri consistently trails well behind the other candidates. Still, how the candidates rank doesn’t necessarily tell the full story of what the election outcome may be. The portion of undecided voters continues to reach into the double digits. As an AS/COA Online News Analysis noted early in the official campaign cycle, Mexican polling firms are less than reliable. In an article for Nexos (read  English-language coverage in The Economist) Mexican political scientist Leo Zuckerman evaluated the shortcomings of 17 polling firms. 

With that note in mind, the following sources offer polling information:

  • With tracking dating back to November 2011, ADN Político maps out the latest poll results and allows visitors to filter results by polling firm, voter intention by candidate or political party, and presidential approval figures.
  • Animal Político’s “Todos los números” summarizes new polls from a range of polling firms, listing the newest first.
  • El Universal’s poll page lays out results from surveys on local and gubernatorial elections, as well as the presidential polls.

One-Stop Sources for Election Coverage & Analysis

Mexican daily El Universal offers “Ruta Electoral,” a portal which shares multimedia, polls, candidate platforms, and more. Included in its coverage is an interactive map that gives a state-by-state breakdown of party preference, shows which states will elect governors, and what political seats are up for grabs come July 1.

Online news outlet Animal Político’s corresponding Animal Electoral site aggregates the candidates’ Twitter feeds and a citizen journalism portal covering the vote. Its debate forum “El Palenque” poses a daily question relevant to the election, allowing experts to weigh in and readers to vote on responses.

Milenio’s “Voto x voto 2012” portal includes news, opinion, video, photo, and Twitter streams all on one page.

Who are the candidates? Mexican monthly magazine Nexos answers the question with in-depth profiles of each of the three main contenders. 

Via its Election Guide, the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute provides analysis, polling information, and weekly summaries of major election-related news. 

Univision News offers ongoing Mexican election coverage on its Tumblr blog for those seeking Mexican election coverage in English. 

Social Media

This is the first Mexican election in which social media plays a major role. Since the 2006 election, Mexicans’ growing access to the internet and smartphones has changed the way the electorate participates in politics. All the candidates have sought to take advantage of the new medium in different ways with varying degrees of success. Meanwhile, the YoSoy132 student movement, which demands transparent media coverage of the election and is largely anti-PRI, has leveraged the power of social media to organize protests in a number of major cities.

Milenio’s ¡No te enredes! page tracks candidates’ followers on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube and offers the latest election-related social media news. The page covers everything from Peña Nieto’s most watched YouTube video to the most common electoral hashtags to how candidates benefit from social media mentions by celebrities

Read an AS/COA Online News Analysis about the YoSoy132 youth movement and get Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube updates via the website. Access information about the presidential candidates on their Facebook pages: AMLOPeña Nieto, Quadri, and Vázquez Mota.

Track the candidates and their parties on social media: 

  • Watch the candidates’ ads and public appearances on their YouTube channels: AMLO (MorenaAMLO), Peña Nieto (EnriquePenaNietoTV), Quadri (GabrielQuadriTV), and Vázquez Mota (JosefinaMX)
  • Follow the candidates’ campaign coordinators on Twitter: Roberto Gil Zuarth @rgilzuarth (campaign organizer for Vázquez Mota), Ricardo Monreal @ricardomonreala (campaign coordinator for AMLO), Luciano Quadri Barba @lucianoquadri (campaign coordinator for Quadri), and Luis Videgaray Caso @lvidegaray (campaign coordinator for Peña Nieto).
  • Access the Facebook pages of the represented parties: PAN, PANAL, PRD and the PRI.

Electoral Resources and Observer Information

The Mexican Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) provides information about the electoral process and requirements. 

The Elecciones en México website provides practical information for the upcoming election, including statistics, a calendar, and electoral laws. 

Due to a petition from the YoSoy132 movement and the non-government organization Alianza Cívica, the date to register as an electoral observer was moved from May 31 to June 7.

IFE reports that 196 foreigners from 40 countries registered as electoral observers. This is the largest number of observers in the country’s history.

The Organization of American States announced that it would send election observers to Mexico for the first time this year.

The Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia will also send observers.

(Co-authored with Mark Keller).