Update: With more than 50% of the vote counted, Obrador maintains his 53% share guaranteeing his victory.
Update: Obrador looks set to win. He has 53% of the vote with just over 30% of the total vote counted.
Over 3,400 Mexican government posts – including the presidency and every seat in both houses of Congress – are up for grabs on Sunday, July 1. It’s the biggest election day in the country’s history, and it’s off to a bloody start. According to the BBC, more than 130 candidates and political workers have been killed since the start of campaigning last September.
Crime, government corruption, poverty, and, of course, Donald Trump have been the hot issues of the 2018 Mexican presidential race. All four candidates have pledged to stand up to what they call Trump’s bullying, cut the rates of crime and poverty, and end government corruption. However, each has said or done things during the campaign to undermine the credibility of these promises.
On top of all that, according to Reuters, corruption watchdogs worry that private donors might be illegally giving too much to the top three and not reporting their gifts, in order to buy access.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, as he is often called, is the most likely next president of Mexico, as the latest surveys show him in a 22 point lead. As a left-wing populist and the founder of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), AMLO has sold himself as a man of the people and a political outsider who will clean up crime and corruption. He isn’t, of course. He has belonged to both the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the currently ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and he has been trying for the presidency for the last dozen years or so.
Those who support him buy into his image, but those who don’t see AMLO as an authoritarian whose government spending plans might well send Mexico into the same socialist death spiral that Venezuela suffers today. AMLO claims that he can fund it all merely by cutting out government corruption, but he has yet to show any real details on how he intends to accomplish such a task.
The Conservative – Sort of
The National Action Party’s (PAN) candidate, Ricardo Anaya, is number two in the polls. He is allegedly a right-wing politician – and belongs to a conservative party – but he plans to fight poverty by granting all Mexicans a monthly payout. Universal basic income is not a conservative idea, and in general, it’s not a very good idea.
Anaya also pledges to fight corruption but many are skeptical, as he currently faces allegations of money laundering and benefitting from a fraudulent real estate deal. Naturally, he denies these claims.
The Old Stand-by
Coming in third in the polls is José Antonio Meade Kuribreña of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. The PRI has ruled Mexico for most of a century – 77 of the last 89 years – and the name is considered synonymous with corruption. Meade has positioned himself as a friendly and experienced politician, but his involvement in the previous two administrations and his membership in PRI are not helping his numbers.
Trailing last in popular opinion is the independent Jaime Rodríguez Calderón. El Bronco, as he calls himself, might have done better throughout the campaign season had he not suggested that the answer to corruption was cutting off the hands of public servants who steal.
The Big Picture
All four presidential candidates have pledged to work as best as possible with the U.S. while standing firm against Donald Trump’s assertive political style – though Anaya went as far as to call Trump a bully and say that bullies must be confronted.
If Obrador wins, as it seems nigh certain he will, it is unclear whether he’ll actually try to clean up government corruption. However, it seems he’ll definitely embark on a massive government spending spree. He’s one of those politicians who believes that the answer to suffering from a lack of money is to spend more of it.
Anaya might not be much better though, if he plans to follow through with his promise to have the government send a check to every Mexican each month. He also appears to be the most likely to directly confront President Trump.
Having said that, if either of these two wins and manages to make any headway tackling corruption, that, at least, would be an improvement. Six years of Meade – belonging to the party that has ruled Mexico so long it could almost be called royalty – would probably just be more of the status quo.
It seems unlikely that Calderón has much of a chance – probably in large part because he admitted he wants to cut off people’s hands, though the fact that he also has a background with PRI or that Mexico’s federal election agency, INE, has fined him over financial irregularities likely doesn’t help endear him to the people.
But as Luis Carlos Ugalde, the former president of INE, told Reuters, illegal donations and vote buying are rampant in Mexican politics and have been for decades. According to a recent poll, more than a third of Mexicans surveyed said at least one political party had already tried to buy their votes. In the end, the winner may well be the candidate whose party managed to pay off the most voters. Regardless of which man takes office, it looks like a bumpy road ahead for U.S.-Mexico relations.