AS/COA Online | Four Takeaways from AMLO's Victory in Mexico

In his first speech as president-elect of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador called for reconciliation in the wake of a divisive race and amid discontent over large-scale violence and  corruption that sparked a devastating loss for the sitting government. “I will not fail you,” López Obrador, or AMLO, told supporters in a subsequent victory speech in a packed Zócalo, Mexico City's main plaza. His remarks repeated past pledges to respect the independence of the central bank, review oil contracts, avoid raising taxes or gas prices, and battle corruption.

It remains to be seen how the leftist will solve the grave problems that drove voters to give him what appears to be a landslide win, and final official results could take days. But here are quick takes from the ground on his win in his third go at the presidency.

1. The outcome was smooth and peaceful on the night of July 1.

In the past, fraud allegations marred Mexican elections. Andrés Manuel López Obrador himself challenged the results of the 2006 vote when he narrowly lost to Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (PAN).

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AS/COA Online | LatAm in Focus: Millennials' Big Role in the Mexican Elections

At 64, Mexican presidential frontrunner Andrés Manuel López Obrador is the oldest candidate on the ballot, but that’s not stopping 51 percent of millennials from backing him. And their support matters, because that age group has the potential to account for nearly half of the electorate on Mexico’s July 1 election day, says Pancho Parra, editor of polls for millennial-focused news site Nación321.

The fact that younger voters back López Obrador, or AMLO, to a greater degree than do other age groups may seem contradictory. Besides the age factor, millennials consider solving crime and violence to be a top issue but disagree with his proposal to give amnesty to criminals.

So why does the largest portion go for AMLO? One reason is rejection of the sitting government. In Nación321’s millennial poll, respondents were asked to qualify current President Enrique Peña Nieto with a happy or angry emoji, and 89 percent went with latter. But Parra tells AS/COA Online’s Carin Zissis that AMLO’s “direct and easy” manner of speaking that compares to ex-President of Uruguay José “Pepe” Mujica—famous for his austere way of living—or former U.S. presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

On the other hand, Mexican millennials don’t wear their politics on their sleeve. They say they wouldn’t want to post a selfie with a candidate or chat with one of them on WhatsApp. And they don’t see themselves allied with parties: 59 percent don’t identify as belonging to any party.

Parra says that 2018 marks Mexico’s first social media race, and that’s resulted in a race defined by memes and viral humor. But, in covering and polling millennials, he found they are looking toward the future rather than for quick fixes to problems like the economy and better public safety.

So what comes after the July vote? “Everything’s been promised to the young people: That they’re going to have jobs, that they’re going to be better paid,” says Parra. “But if [the next government] doesn’t accomplish those kinds of things, I think there will be a big democracy fail.”

This episode was produced by Luisa Leme.

AS/COA Online | LatAm in Focus: Why Mexico's Election Will Redraw the Country's Political Map

The closer we get to Mexico’s election, the more Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s poll lead grows. The three-time presidential candidate better known as AMLO gets called everything from a nationalist to a firebrand to a populist. Still, he’s ahead of Ricardo Anaya, his closest challenger, by more than 20 points, per Oraculus’ poll aggregator. Many question the numbers or posit that undecided voters could make the difference on Election Day.

Do they have a point? We’ll have to see on July 1, but Jorge Buendía, director of polling firm Buendía & Laredo and founding partner of Oraculus, thinks not. “The people that are saying ‘Don’t trust the polls’ are the ones who are supporting candidates who are in second or third place,” he told AS/COA Online Editor-in-Chief Carin Zissis in Mexico City.

On top of that, Buendía explains that these elections could well redefine Mexico’s political scenario, upending past alliances and traditional political rivalries in both Mexico’s North and South. Why? Across the country, more than 3,400 seats are up for grabs—about 60 percent more than in the last general elections. And that helps MORENA, the political party that AMLO started since he lost the 2012 election, and which the frontrunner is encouraging voters to select all down their ballots. “MORENA will have a lot of jobs to offer,” says Buendía. “And the question here is, then what are going to be the checks and balances on López Obrador?”

This episode was produced by Luisa Leme. 

AS/COA Online | Mexico's 2018 Election: 5 Things to Know with 1 Month to Go

As we enter the final month of Mexico’s presidential race, the polls keep repeating the same results: Andrés Manuel López Obrador holds a solid lead. The latest Reforma survey gives the frontrunner, known as AMLO, a 2-to-1 advantage over his next closest rival, Ricardo Anaya, while the governing-party candidate, José Antonio Meade, stays third. So, aside from parsing presidential poll numbers, what are trends to watch with the July 1 vote looming? Writing from Mexico City, AS/COA Online's Carin Zissis takes a look at five election issues.

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AS/COA Online | The Races for Mexico's Powerful Gubernatorial Seats

Most of Mexico’s electoral fervor is focused on the top seat in the land—the presidency. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other highly coveted posts up for grabs: nearly a third of Mexican states will select new governors to single, six-year terms on July 1. And perhaps no other posts better exemplify voters’ frustration with corruption.

Back when the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ran the country for more than seven decades straight, governors were deferential to the presidency. Since that period ended in 2000, they’ve become increasingly powerful, thanks to near-unfettered access to public funds, which many of them exploit. Across the country—from the border states of Chihuahua and Tamaulipas to the Gulf Coast’s Veracruz to the tourism paradise of Quintana Roo—several governors ransacked state coffers and ran for the hills in recent years. Some 14 current or ex-governors are under investigation.

Although corruption extends beyond any one political party, many of these scandals involve the PRI, meaning they play a factor in the weak approval ratings of President Enrique Peña Nieto and the fact that PRI presidential candidate José Antonio Meade generally polls third. The party already took a hit in 2016 during the last big round of gubernatorial elections, when it lost six of the nine governorships it held.

But while many speculate as to how much more ground the PRI will lose in this gubernatorial round, it’s not the only party that stands to lose. The left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) experienced high-stakes defections when current presidential frontrunner Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, exited the party to start his own, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). The PRD holds three of the nine seats up for election and could find itself handing over the crown jewel, Mexico City, for the first time in more than 20 years. Overall, MORENA, which holds none of the country’s 32 governorships at the moment, appears well-placed to win at least four this time around.

From family members to a fútbol star, here’s a look at the candidates and competitions to govern eight states (Chiapas, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos, Puebla, Tabasco, Veracruz, and Yucatán) and Mexico City.

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AS/COA Online | Viewpoint: Four Takeaways from Mexico's First Presidential Debate

The anticipation leading up to Mexico’s first presidential debate of 2018 felt akin to waiting for a heavyweight championship fight. Viewers wanted to see if the April 22 five-way faceoff would budge the needle in a race in which Andrés Manuel López Obrador, better known as AMLO, dominates polls. The debate launched a thousand memes, but did it change the course of the competition? In the lead-up to the July 1 election, here’s what was covered and major takeaways from the first of three debates.

1. The debate covered three weighty topics for Mexicans.

The format was broken into three topics: violence and security, corruption, and democracy and vulnerable populations—topics at the forefront of the public’s mind. Violence and corruption have been among top voter concerns. 2017 was Mexico’s most murderous year on record, and the situation isn’t improving in 2018: last month the homicide rate rose 23 percent compared to March 2017. Worn out by one corruption scandal after another, Mexicans see matters getting worse in this area; the country dropped 12 spots in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index to spot 135 out of 180. At the same time, voter discontent runs high, given that 9 in 10 Mexicans say they’re dissatisfied with democracy.

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AS/COA Online | Explainer: Mexico's 2018 Election and Presidential Candidates

Mexico’s presidential campaigns officially started March 30, but the frontrunner has been competing for the country’s top post for more than 12 years. A large portion of polls give Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, a formidable double-digit lead as candidates hunker down for what’s promising to be a dirty fight to the July 1 finish. Does that kind of poll lead mean we can call it at this point? Not necessarily, as past elections show. Mexico has no runoff and the last two elections were won with less than 40 percent of the vote, so divided electorates and undecideds have a major role to play in this race. Still, widespread discontent among voters is playing in AMLO’s favor: he’s painted himself as an outsider candidate at a point when 4 out of 5 Mexicans feel the country is on the wrong path.

But, given that there are more seats up for grabs in this election than any other in Mexico’s history, what’s at stake goes beyond the presidency. Here’s a look at the election basics, as well as profiles of the presidential candidates and coalitions.

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AS/COA Online | LatAm in Focus: Back to the Future in Chile and El Salvador?

In Chile, center-right Sebastián Piñera retakes the helm to replace center-left Michelle Bachelet as president on March 11. Meanwhile, El Salvador’s March 4 legislative and municipal elections saw conservatives picking up seats at the governing party’s expense. But, in both cases, to what degree did voters turn right and to what degree did they turn against the party in control?

In this episode of Latin America in Focus, AS/COA Online's Carin Zissis speaks to Héctor Silva Ávalos, founder of Revista Factum, about why El Salvador’s governing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front—the one-time guerilla group best known as the FMLN—lost a key number of legislative seats.

He says voters were disappointed with the FMLN’s handling of everything from violence to corruption to Washington’s cancellation of Temporary Protective Status for Salvadoran migrants. “What happened in general is that the FMLN hardcore voter didn’t go to vote,” says Silva Ávalos, who is also a researcher for American University and InSight Crime. He and Zissis discuss how the election made President Salvador Sánchez Cerén a lame duck and what the FMLN loss of the mayoralty of San Salvador indicates for next year’s presidential race.

As for Chile, Sebastián Piñera’s first 100 days in office will focus on pension, tax, and education reforms, political scientist Patricio Navia tells Elizabeth Gonzalez. But while the center-right leader’s coalition, Let’s Go Chile, gained the most seats in the congress, it fell short of a majority and will have to contend with an emerging leftist Broad Front. As such, Piñera is unlikely to backtrack on some of outgoing President Michelle Bachelet’s social reforms, including abortion and gender identity legislation. Navia, a professor at New York University also commented on Chileans’ consensus on reforming immigration law to better regulate an influx of Haitian migrants, as well as the chances of expanding regional trade ties depending on upcoming elections in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico.

Co-hosted with Elizabeth Gonzalez.

Latin America Advisor | Can Meade Keep Mexico's Presidency in the PRI's Hands?

Q: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Nov. 27 backed his finance secretary, José Antonio Meade, to be the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party’s candidate in the presidential election to be held next July. Why did Peña Nieto choose Meade, and will Meade’s close affiliation with the relatively unpopular lame-duck president hinder his candidacy? Does Meade have the support of the PRI at large? What will it take for Meade, often described as a U.S.-educated technocrat, to garner enough popular support to become Mexico’s next president?

A: Carin Zissis, editor-in-chief of AS/COA Online at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas:

“José Antonio Meade, a lesser-known candidate who’s never run for office, is up against leftist former Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a familiar face making his third go at the presidency and who leads polls in part thanks to voter dissatisfaction with the political status quo. So it seems like Meade, who has PhD from Yale and polls well with elites, could struggle to win popular support in time for election day. But it would be a big mistake to count him out. For starters, Meade’s ‘unknown’ status can be overcome, particularly given that political advertising is crucial to media outlets’ bottom lines in Mexico. Since Meade revealed plans to run, he has gotten nonstop coverage, proving the PRI machinery is gearing up for battle. Second, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration hopes that what makes Meade different will also make him the victor. The PRI is tainted by corruption, but Meade remains untarnished. He’s held top cabinet posts, ranging from foreign relations to finance, under Peña Nieto, but also during the presidency of Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party, meaning he can siphon votes from the conservative PAN. In fact, Meade isn’t a PRI member; the party opened the door to his candidacy in August by changing its rules to allow non-priistas to run. Finally, Mexico has no runoff vote, and there could be more candidates this time around, given the possibility of some high-profile independents. Meade, or whoever wins, might do so with a third of the votes—or less. And the PRI is, at least publicly, projecting unity while other parties fall victim to infighting. There’s a long way to go between now and July 1, and the PRI is a formidable political force in Mexican politics, regardless of Peña Nieto’s approval rating.”

Read the full Q&A here.

AS/COA Online | Five Things to Know about the Big Edomex Governor's Race

AS/COA Online | Five Things to Know about the Big Edomex Governor's Race

With just four of 32 Mexican states holding regional elections on June 4, the votes are far from national in scope. But the results of one race—the much-prized gubernatorial seat in Estado de México, aka Edomex—is of national importance, given that its outcome serves as a preamble to next year’s presidential election. A month before the election, here’s what you need to know about the race.

1. Edomex is the country’s crown jewel of governorships, and the PRI’s held on to it for almost nine decades.

Edomex, known as the State of Mexico in English, is the country’s most populous state and, with roughly 11.3 million voters, accounts for more than 13 percent of Mexico’s electorate. Edomex is also the second-biggest contributor to the country’s economy after the capital, which it borders.

The state’s location and size contribute to it being a political launching pad for governors, who have gone on to become cabinet members, party leaders, and even—in the case of current head of state Enrique Peña Nieto—president. Since the party’s founding 88 years ago, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has never lost a gubernatorial race in the state. In fact, current PRI candidate Alfredo Del Mazo’s father and grandfather both served as Edomex governors and he’s also Peña Nieto’s cousin...

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AS/COA Online | LatAm in Focus: Jorge Castañeda Portends Changing Times for Mexico

What's the next step for Mexico in its 10-year-old drug war? What would it take to end the country’s corruption epidemic? And who will be the winner of the much-anticipated 2018 presidential election? Jorge Castañeda, a Mexican academic and former foreign secretary, spoke with AS/COA Online’s Carin Zissis in Mexico City, sharing his answers to these questions and how they relate to a turbulent turn in U.S.-Mexican ties under the Trump administration.

For one thing, he says that Mexico does not have to help Washington carry out deportations and can block such moves by requiring the United States to prove deportees’ Mexican citizenship before repatriation. “Why should we let in people who they say are Mexicans, but who they cannot prove are Mexicans?” asks Castañeda, who served as a negotiator on U.S.-Mexico immigration reform during the government of Mexican President Vicente Fox. “This is an unfriendly American government. It makes no sense for Mexico to cooperate with them.”

Castañeda also says that Mexico’s next president would ideally be familiar with the United States and international issues, and who isn’t bogged down “by complicity with corruption of the past.” But, forecasting the winner, he says the 2018 election won’t deliver that result. “I think it will largely be a disaster,” he says. “But it’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

Read a transcript of this interview.

AS/COA Online | Guatemala Update: Presidential Elections amid Political Turmoil

Guatemalans head to the polls to pick a new president on September 6, but someone else will already have taken the helm by then. Months of scandal and demonstrations culminated in President Otto Pérez Molina’s signing a resignation letter on September 2, a day after Guatemala’s Congress stripped him of immunity.

Protests calling for Pérez Molina to step down date back months, to when Vice President Roxana Baldetti resigned for her role in the customs fraud scandal known as La Línea. The president’s approval rating sank to a dismal 12 percent but he managed to stay just out of the scandal’s reach.

That all changed starting August 21, when new revelations tying Pérez Molina to La Línea emerged and the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and attorney general took steps toward the president’s impeachment.

One by one the dominoes fell, as did the president.

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U.S. News & World Report | 'El Bronco' Bucks Mexico's System

MEXICO CITY – Jaime "El Bronco" Rodríguez survived two assassination attempts, but overcoming Mexico's party politics to become the country's first independent candidate elected governor is no doubt his greatest feat yet. In the June 7 election, Rodríguez exceeded poll expectations by a wide margin, snagging 49 percent of the vote – almost double that of his main rival, Ivonne Álvarez of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI – to win the most important of nine gubernatorial seats up for grabs, the governorship of the economic powerhouse of Nuevo Leon.

Voter discontent with the political status quo surely helped, but how he ran his campaign, in particular using social media as a means to connect with supporters, played no small part in his electoral victory.

A few years ago, El Bronco would not have been able to run at all without being tied to a party. A 2012 constitutional reform allowed for independent candidates, and June 7 marked the first time they could participate in a midterm election. That, in and of itself, is a historic step for a country where the PRI governed for seven consecutive decades until 2000 and recaptured the presidency in 2012. Three parties – the PRI, the National Action Party and the Democratic Revolutionary Party – have dominated Mexican politics up until now. On top of that, Mexico is only in the early stages of breaking up the long-held media monopoly of broadcast giant Televisa, considered by many to be amouthpiece for the PRI. And no party affiliation means no free television spots for campaign ads. The odds are not stacked in favor of independents....

Read the full article in U.S. News & World Report's online opinion section.

AS/COA Online | Infographic: What's at Stake in Mexico's Midterm Vote?

Click image to view full infographic.More than 21,000 offices are up for grabs in Mexico’s midterm elections on June 7, including all 500 seats in the lower house of Congress. That means the election could determine President Enrique Peña Nieto’s ability to usher through legislation in the second half of his term. The governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has seen support fall in recent months in the wake of a housing scandal and outcry over the disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero. But polls show the other two main parties—the right-leaning National Action Party (PAN) and the left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party (PRD)—failing to gain ground against the PRI, with other new or minor parties playing a role.

This voting round also marks the election of nine governors, and Nuevo León is emerging as a battleground state with an important feature: an independent candidate stands as a leading contender. In fact, this is the first midterm election that allows for independent candidates to run following a 2012 constitutional amendment.

AS/COA Online shares polls, numbers, and data for the election, as well as how Mexicans view government and democracy.

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U.S. News & World Report | Why the Americas Need More Women Leaders

Come Sunday, Brazilians will turn out for an election in which the top two candidates are women. That President Dilma Rousseff and former Environmental Minister Marina Silva are competing to lead Latin America’s largest economy now comes as little surprise in a region that accounts for a third of the world’s women presidents.

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AS/COA Online | Panama Race Narrows ahead of May 4 Vote

As the candidates approach the May 4 finish line in Panama’s presidential race, the winner remains unclear. There are seven competitors, but three lead the pack: José Domingo Arias of the ruling party Democratic Change (CD), former Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), and Vice President Juan Carlos Varela of the Panameñista Party (PP). Earlier polls gave Arias a wider lead, but some of the final surveys show that lead shrinking, as shown by poll numbers below by firms Ipsos/Panamá Opina, Dichter & Neira, and Quantix. (The three polls estimate a margin of error of roughly +/-2 percent.). 

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AS/COA Online | El Salvador Prepares for a Close Presidential Competition

El Salvador's presidential candidates wrapped up their campaigns this week in preparation for the country's February 2 election. While there are several candidates in the running, the race is coming down to three main contenders. Who are they and can any of them get the required 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff election on March 9? AS/COA Online takes a look at the election.

The Candidates...

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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.

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AS/COA Online | Youth Protests Seek to Stir up Mexican Presidential Race

(co-authored with Mark Keller)

Throughout the Mexican electoral race, not much has succeeded in moving the needle when it comes to the frontrunner’s commanding poll lead. Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Enrique Peña Nieto’s lead continues to hover in the double digits, as it did at the official start of the campaign in March. But a student movement, dubbed #YoSoy132, emerged in recent weeks to shake up the election, protesting what appears to be an inevitable return to a presidency by the PRI—the party that held control of the presidency for seven decades before the National Action Party (PAN) victory in 2000. In particular, the protesters contend that Mexico’s top media outlets favor Peña Nieto. Opinions diverge on the movement, with some viewing it as an optimistic sign that young voters are shaking off political apathy. But others argue the movement’s support base hails from the left-leaning Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), whose candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (commonly known as AMLO) refused to concede loss during the last presidential election. Across the spectrum, many question whether it can have an impact on the outcome of the July 1 presidential vote, given that voter support for Peña currently stands at 46 percent—more than 20 points higher than either AMLO or PAN candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota.

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AS/COA Online | Capriles Wins Venezuelan Primary to Become Chávez's Challenger

Henrique Capriles Radonski won Venezuela’s opposition primary on February 12, making him the top contender in the race against President Hugo Chávez. Capriles, governor of the state of Miranda, pulled in 1.8 million of the 2.9 million votes cast. He will serve as the nominee of the Coalition for Democratic Unity (MUD), an alliance of opposition parties formed to more effectively compete with Chávez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela. A former legislator, Capriles faced four other candidates but faced his greatest competition from Pablo Pérez, governor of Zulia state. Another candidate, Leopoldo López, dropped out of the race on January 24 and put his support behind the frontrunner, giving Capriles a last-minute boost. In hopes of overcoming past electoral setbacks, MUD candidates signed a September 2011 pact agreeing to back the primary winner to avoid possible splintering of the opposition vote in the October 7 election. The MUD also agreed to a unified platform last month, pledging to combat the country’s violent crime problem, engage in democratic reconstruction, and pursue a sustainable economic model. AS/COA’s Rachel Glickhouse and Guillermo Zubillaga note in an election overview that the February 12 vote “test[s] the momentum of support for the opposition coalition before the general election.” Can Capriles, backed by a unified opposition, compete with the loquacious, long-governing Chávez?

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