Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Not too scared to vote

Perhaps the threats of violence were not a deterrent to voting in Mexico.

Mexican Democracy, Even Under Siege
Campaign offices had been bombed, candidates had been threatened and killed, and dead bodies were even hung from bridges on the morning of the polling.

But Mexico’s voters still turned out in relatively large numbers to choose new governors, mayors and state representatives over the weekend and managed to send an inspiring message amid all the violence: Mexico’s democracy, flawed as it may be, endures.

One of the nation’s most powerful factions — the country’s drug lords — had attempted to hijack the process. Through bloodshed, they managed to keep voter turnout down in some states and scare off many poll workers, prompting one former president of the Federal Election Institute, Luis Carlos Ugalde, to lament that this was the first Mexican election in which drug dealers played a visible role in interrupting the process.

But the polling went on and the results were accepted, with voters appearing to steer away from candidates with perceived links to traffickers…

Political analysts had predicted a huge victory for the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the P.R.I., which ruled Mexico for 71 years before voters broke its grip on the country’s politics a decade ago. And the P.R.I. did take 9 of the 12 governorships that were up for grabs on Sunday…

The P.R.I. — a party that represented autocratic rule and is attempting to remake itself as an efficient pragmatic one — hung onto six states and gained three more…

But the P.R.I. was also handed its hat in the states of Oaxaca, Puebla and Sinaloa, where its rule has been as sure a thing as the market opening for business…

“Perhaps the greatest takeaway from Sunday’s elections is that democracy is surprisingly healthy in Mexico,” said Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington…

“Mexico remains an imperfect democracy, like all, but there do appear to be some mechanisms of accountability at work that allowed these elections to be meaningful referenda on local political performance,” Mr. Selee said...

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