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Mexico's 2012 election is about personalities, not economic policy

03 Apr 2012

July 1. From the standpoint of the foreigner manufacturing in Mexico, or conducting another business activity, the day is irrelevant. None of the three major candidates running for president of Mexico has proffered any economic program that would alter, for good or bad, a robust economy or changes in economic policy.

Still, any manufacturer in Mexico, or entrepreneur, is duty-bound to know the political landscape and the players, both on national and local stages, whose policies might have bearing on his or her company's bottom-line.

So far, the candidates running for president have all endorsed Mexico's current policies which have opened the country to trade and encouraged the development of economic clusters, particularly aerospace and automotive manufacturing. Virtually all differences in the campaigns to date have centered on personalities, and who would occupy key cabinet positions in a new administration. In a country with a history of expropriations from the private sector, an uncertain legal system and frequent tampering with free-market policies, the absence of any radical economic schemes in Mexico has given voters a collective sigh of relief.

The presidential election takes place on the first Sunday of July, July 1, and the country will choose the man or woman who will lead the country for the next six years, known as a sexenio. They are choosing from three major parties

-- The Revolutionary Institutional Party, or PRI, which has governed Mexico for much of the last 100 years, with the exception of the last 12 years and whose candidate is Enrique Peña Nieto, a former governor of Mexico state;

-- The National Action Party, or PAN, to which current President Felipe Calderón and past-President Vicente Fox belonged, and whose candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, is a former cabinet member, and;

--- The Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, an ostensibly left-leaning party which has won several governorships but never the presidency, and whose candidate Andrés López Obrador, is a former governor who many believe actually won his earlier race for the presidency in 2006. The word "ostensible" should be applied here because López Obrador has, ahead of Election Day, announced his picks for cabinet positions and they are, generally, men and women who see the role of government in the limited way espoused by recent PAN and PRI administrations.

Whoever wins the election will be sworn in on December 1 and will serve until Nov. 30 of 2018.

In addition to the president, Mexicans will change the entire 500-member Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados) and the entire 128-member Senate. Three hundred of the deputies are elected on the basis of direct vote; 200 have no geographic constituency but are designated on the basis of the percentage of votes received by their parties. Deputies and senators are sworn in on Sept. 1 for three- and six-year terms, respectively.

Mexicans will also elect governors of six the 32 states. Five of those states --- Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos, Tabasco and Yucatán -- will hold state elections on the same day as the presidential election. Chiapas holds elections for state and local positions six weeks later.

Elections at all levels are overseen by Instituto Federal Electoral, or IFE, whose federal and state affiliates set days on which campaigns begin and end; establish rules against use by sitting governments to promote a particular party; and assure that no party has an advantage on number of publicly-provided "spots" on radio and TV. Another, more controversial law that IFE has enforced in 2012: a requirement that 40 percent of federal house and senate candidates be female.

For many Mexicans, the Instituto's rules are harsh and, perhaps, even anti-democratic. Yet, IFE was created in the early 1990's precisely to restore faith in Mexico's voting process after decades of allegations of one-party (PRI) rule and chronic charges of rigged elections.

Campaigning for the presidency officially began on March 30 and will last until June 27, four days prior to the elections. During those final four days, candidates are prohibited from any campaigning.

Local elections are also in store for the state legislatures of the six states that are to choose governors. State chambers and mayors are elected to three-year terms, governors to six-year terms. Deputies, senators, governors and mayors may serve more than a single term but not consecutively.

Mexican states have their own civil and criminal codes and are free to govern themselves, provided they pass no legislation that contradicts the federal constitution.

Although the personalities that are representing the three major parties in this year’s presidential election, there is no indication that the election of any one of these individuals will result in radical policy changes that will significantly change conditions for those foreigners manufacturing in Mexico, or conducting any other business activities.

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