By LAURA CARLSEN
Mexico’s recent elections in four states proved that the PRI is not only back–it’s ready to move into Los Pinos. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, by its Spanish initials) handily took the governorships of the State of Mexico, Coahuila and Nayarit, and most of the mayoral races in the state of Hidalgo.
The first question I get from the foreign press on these elections is: why would the Mexican people choose to return to a party known for authoritarian rule? It isn’t a question I can answer completely, but here are a few considerations.
1) The barometer election on Sunday was by far the State of Mexico governor race. Current governor, Enrique Peña Nieto, had a lot riding on the triumph of PRI candidate Eruviel Avila. He needs his home state and PRI power center as a platform from which to operate the 2012 presidential campaign he has aspired to for years.
From numerous reports it appears that the governor was more than willing to revert to traditional PRI practices of manipulating the vote to assure what turned out to be a landslide victory. Electoral institutes are investigating complaints of vote-buying, use of public funds in the campaign, and exceeding spending limits.
2) With the exception of an eleventh-hour order to withdraw prohibited government propaganda, electoral institutions, particularly on the state level, acted slowly if at all to apply elections law and have been criticized as weak and subject to control by governors.
The federal institutes also did little to nothing to prevent unfair advantages for the incumbent party (the PRI, in these cases). One important lesson from these elections is that Mexico’s system for monitoring and regulating elections is insufficient to assure clean elections. It’s vulnerable to manipulation by strong-arm politicians and the PRI political machine.
Despite the enormous cost of this system its history of ineffectiveness, which dates back to the rubber-stamping of electoral fraud in the 2006 presidential elections and was demonstrated again last Sunday, casts doubt on its capacity to control vote manipulation in the upcoming federal elections.