After just recovering from closely following the US's general election, Mexico's general elections take place in about two weeks. Fortunately, this is not a presidential election and will not be for another 3 years. As a follow up from the last presidential election in 2006, Lopez Obrador is still deluded and considers himself the rightful president, even if his own party is in the process of disowning him. (Remember that? Yeah . . . yet another reason why our wedding was delayed . . . again. Thanks, MALO.)
Every so often now on the weekends, and sometimes during the week, members of Mexico's 8 active political parties stand in the medians near busy intersections with music blaring, trying to get us to vote for their candidate. A few weeks ago, a truck was parked outside my house, blaring music, as the PRI canvassed my neighborhood. They had the nerve to knock on my door, and I really wanted to tell them that if I were able to vote, I'd vote for the quietest candidate. However, that didn't come out of my mouth, and the Nicaraguan canvassing my street buttered me up, noticing our similarities that we're both foreigners. (So . . . if you're a foreigner, why are you stumping for political candidates? Perhaps he's been naturalized. Perhaps the candidate is his neighbor. Whatever. And if the National Institue of Migration reads this, I am neither endorsing or trashing any particular candidate or party. Therefore I can still get my resident visa on Monday, right?)
Mario's biggest irritation with election season is the plethora of political commercials on the TV. The presence of the commercials doesn't bother him so much (except when they're ridiculous). What bothers him is that the political parties get their air time for free, but the commercials (and all other political propoganda) are paid for with taxpayers' money. Yes, a country that has a huge need for infrastructure and improved government programs, but has a relatively tiny tax base squanders what little tax revenue they do have on political ads. And we in the US like to complain about paying for the economic stimulus. At least we're getting something out of that (in theory).
But it will all be over in a few short weeks on July 5th. Oh, boy! For those who are interested, below is a short reference list to Mexico's main political parties.
- PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) For most of Mexico's history as an independent nation (200 years next year), Mexico has been ruled by various dictatorships. Therefore, one of the main stipulatons of the Mexican Revolution (celebrating its 100th aniversary also next year) was that most people holding elected office, particularly the president, can NEVER be reelected. This still stands sacred as the main rule of Mexican politics. However, those who organized the country after the Revolution apparently held themselves to a certain philosophy and, from this, formed the PRI party. Although no one person was ever reelected, the PRI effectively ruled Mexico for about 80 years, and in some areas of the country continues to rule roughly unchallenged. For obvious reasons, their colors are red, white, and green.
- PAN (National Action Party) The PAN was formed in about the 1940s (not 100% positive on the date) as an opposition party to the PRI. President Fox, elected in 2000, was the first non-PRI president elected since the Revolution which ended in 1921. President Calderon, the current president, is also of the PAN party. They're thought to be a bit more conservative than the PRI, but one can not compare these two parties to the Republicans and Democrats of the US. There are a myriad of differences and I'm not even close to understanding them. All I know is that Mario wrote me his most optimistic letter (of political events) in the summer of 2000 when Fox was declared to the the new president. After a lifetime of believing that one's vote didn't really matter because the PRI would always win, no matter what, Fox's election was able to make even Mario momentarily optimistic about the democratic process. Although Fox didn't seem to do much as president, simply the fact that he won and the PRI ceeded power to him was an enormous step for democracy in Mexico. The PAN's colors are blue and white.
- PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party) The PRD is a relatively new party, I believe. It's supposed to be more of a left-leaning party, but I've heard that it's simply made up of former PRI party members whose careers weren't going anywhere (or who pissed off mainstream PRI leadership). They've been in charge of Mexico City for a number of years, but I don't think they hold much sway over the rest of the country. The above-mentioned Lopez Obrador used to be mayor of Mexico City, ran for president in 2006, lost by a very slim margin, but refused to acknowledge the official outcome of the election. As mentioned, he still thinks he's the "real" president of Mexico and holds rallies in Mexico City every now and then so people don't forget about him. He ran under the PRD party, but now it seems that they're a bit sick of him, and he's been appearing in ads for other political parties (often two or three different parties at the same time . . . go figure). The PRD's colors are yellow and black.
- Partido Verde (Green Party) Clearly, they try to put environmental issues on their agenda. To generate more controversy this election, they're proposing that Mexico introduce the death penalty. Yep, they lost me at "death penalty". But since I can't vote, I suppose they're not losing too much sleep over that.
- Partido del Trabajo--PT (Work Party) Given their name, their red and gold colors, and their symbol of a gold star on a red background, I am assuming this party would be Mexico's socialist party (without saying that in so many words). The only things I know about them are that a few years ago they advertised their candidates without last names. "Vote for Jose!" (Jose who? Yeah, very professional.) However, the mayor of Metepec is from the PT and he did get trash collection moved from only once a week to three times a week. Yay for Oscar!
- Nueva Alianza (New Alliance) No idea. I believe this party is mainly run by the national teachers' union. At least they're quiet.
- The only other party I can think of I can't remember their name. However, their symbol can be viewed in two (or three) ways. Initially, it looks like a roughly drawn red bird. Then it looks like a hand with the palm extended upward. This palm could be interpreted as trying to help the people. It could also be interpreted as the party that's forever asking for money. You decide. And their platform this election is to legalize drugs. I don't see them winning many seats.
- And there are probably a few other parties out there, as they tend to spring up overnight.