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No. 8, July 2000
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The elections in Mexico
After 71 years in power, the PRI has lost the presidency
The simple majority in the first and only tour is decisive in Mexico:
Fox 43%, Labastida 35%, Cárdenas 16%.
Book your hotel in Mexiko online.

Article added on July 14, 2000
 

Vicente Fox

 
Born in Mexico City in 1942 as the second of nine sons, Vicente Fox grew up in León, Guanajuato. He went back to the capital to study business at the Universidad Iberoamericana (directed by Jesuits). He continued his studies at Harvard University (U.S.) and later became a manager at Coca Cola. Fox rose to the position of president for the Mexico and Latin America division of the company. At the end of the 1980s, he joined the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN). In 1988, Fox was elected for the PAN into the regional government and, in 1995, became governor of the state of Guanajuato. On July 2, 2000, the 58-year-old and two-meter tall Vicente Fox, who is known for his straightforward talking, which earned him the image as a right-wing populist, managed to win the presidential election in Mexico by a margin of 7%.
 
The elections
 
Since 1929 the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) had been in power in Mexico. Therefore, Vicente Fox called the country "PRIson". Others named the regime the perfect dictatorship. After 71 years, the PRI will have to hand over the presidency to the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), a center-right party. The clear result came as a surprise since, until the last moment, the polls predicted a head-to-head race. The PRI's main "argument" was stability - 80% of the voters indicated this was their primary concern. Therefore, PRI and government officials tried to convince the voters that they would lose access to welfare and farm programs if Vicente won. In 1994, this recipe proved to be successful.
 
The second obstacle to a win by Fox was the third candidate, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. He is a tireless crusader for democracy in Mexico and the leader of the left-wing opposition party Partido de la Revolución Democratica (PRD). He refused to withdraw from the presidential race because, in his eyes, the end of the PRI regime should not be made possible by abandoning the left-wing ideas. His PRD is nationalist and against free trade, which comes as no surprise if one remembers that the party is a reformist offspring of the PRI. In 1988, Cárdenas run for the first time for president and - according to most observers - lost only due to massive electoral fraud by and in favor of the PRI. In 1994, Cárdenas finished third. His revenge came in 1997 with the win in the election for mayor in the capital, Mexico City. Cárdenas' popularity is partly due to the fact that he is the son of former popular president Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-40). Although still respected by many in Mexico, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas has not understood that the world has changed since the late 1980s and that socialist ideas and recipes no longer have the public's favor. Ironically, he accused Fox of not being different from the PRI, by not realizing, that he himself had become an obstacle to change.
 
Francisco Labastida, the candidate of the PRI, is an old apparatchik who owes his career to the party and, therefore, was no credible symbol for a democratic and economic change in Mexico. It came as no surprise that towards the end of his campaign, he searched more and more the help of the dinosaurs, as the conservatives within his party are called. Vicente Fox accurately described the situation as one with the dinosaurs afraid of a climatic change (which would made them extinct).
 
The erosion of the PRI system (including the party, the state and the economy) began as early as 1989, when, for the first time, a PAN candidate became governor of Baja California. The uprising of the "Zapatistas" eroded the authority of the PRI furthermore and, in 1994, the NAFTA free trade agreement also favored change. Three years later, the PRI lost its absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies as well as the post of major of Mexico City. And now, in the year 2000, the party has finally lost the presidency and also the absolute majority in the Senate. In the capital, the PRI holds only 5 of 66 local mandates (PAN 24 + the mayor, PRD 26, Green Party 10).
 
Due to a bizarre clause in constitution, President Zedillo (PRI), a man of reform, will govern until December. Afterwards, Fox will have to talk to all political forces, since his non-socialist middle-class coalition (PAN and Green Party) did not win a majority either in the Lower House or in the Senate. The PRI era of más de lo mismo (more of the same) is definitively over, but at the same time a culture of cooperation needs to be created in order to lead Mexico into a prosperous and calm future. The independent electoral commission, which supervised the presidential elections, worked in an admirable way and could serve as an example to the new government and parliament.
 
Fox has a religious education and his PAN is a conservative-Catholic force. It remains to be seen whether the political change will, beside economic and social reforms, lead to a cultural-religious struggle. Anyway, Vicente Fox is taking on a heavy burden. On the positive side: the economy is booming, with a growth rate of about 8% right now and growth of 5 to 7% forecast for the year 2000. In the last years, foreign direct investment amounted to about $10 billion per year. The rising oil prices lowered Mexico's trade deficit. On the mixed and negative side: Inflation is about 9% and the peso is weak. Fox will have to fight corruption and criminality. The drug trade is still flourishing. The backwardness of the country, where about 40 million poor people live with $2 a day, is a serious problem. Vicente Fox and his coalition have no time to celebrate their victory.

Book your hotel in Mexiko online.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 

www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 8, July 2000
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  Archives
Links  For Advertisers  Feedback  German edition  Travel

Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.