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Column 043018 Wall

Monday, April 30, 2018

Impressions following Mexico's First 2018 Presidential Candidates Debate

By Allan Wall

Political debates are fun to watch and can help to define candidates.  I wouldn’t recommend basing one’s entire decision on a political debate, but it is important for a campaign, and can make or break it.

In American political history, debates have been important in elections.  The 1800s saw the Lincoln-Douglass debates.

The modern era of U.S. political debates began in 1960 with the Kennedy-Nixon debate. 

Ronald Reagan had some memorable debate lines, as did Donald Trump who won the most recent election.

In Mexico, debates have come a long way since 1994, which featured the PRI’s Ernesto Zedillo, the PRD’s Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, and the PAN’s Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, who was clearly the winner.  In fact, Zedillo and Cardenas didn’t even seem to know what a debate was, as they droned on and were bushwhacked by Diego.  Nevertheless, Zedillo went on to win the election.

On April 22nd, 2018, the first official debate of the 2018 Mexican presidential election was held.  The five candidates are:

JOSE ANTONIO MEADE KURIBREÑA of the Todos por México (Everybody for Mexico) coalition, composed of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, that is the PRI (Meade’s party), the Green Party, and the Partido Nueva Alianza – the PNA or PANAL

RICARDO ANAYA CORTES of the Por México al Frente (For Mexico to the Front) coalition, composed of Anaya’s PAN (Partido Acción Nacional) in coalition with the leftist PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática), and the smaller Movimiento Ciudadano (Citizen Movement). 

Front-runner ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR (AMLO), candidate of the Juntos haremos historia (Together we will make History) coalition, composed of   MORENA (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional) – the party AMLO himself founded, in coalition with the Labor Party (PT), and PES (Partido Encuentro Social). 

And the two independent candidates:

1. MARGARITA ESTER ZAVALA GOMEZ del CAMPO de CALDERON (the wife of former President Felipe Calderon [2006-2012]); and 2. JAIME HELIODORO RODRIGUEZ CALDERON, better known as “El Bronco.”

My family and I watched the debate in the United States. I thought it was well-done and well organized.  All five candidates had prepared themselves and played to their own strengths.

Some observations:

1.  Since AMLO is the front-runner, he was the biggest target of the night.  Yet he maintained a remarkable composure, refusing to get rattled.  AMLO may be very confident of victory.  In the debate he didn’t even try to respond to every criticism.  And, just as Trump did in the U.S. in 2016, AMLO touted his position in the polls.

2. Since AMLO was formerly the mayor of Mexico City, and Bronco the Governor of Nuevo Leon, their records were part of the debate.  Especially AMLO’s.

3. Mexico’s worsening security situation was an issue.  Ricardo Anaya said that the cartels need to be dismantled, though this is easier said than done.  Plus, when cartels get broken up the new cartels can be just as, or even more, dangerous.

4. Bronco was proud of the improvement of the people’s lot in Nuevo Leon, which he said was done without public assistance, or welfare.

5. Margarita Zavala pledged to defend Mexico from Trump.

6. Bronco talked about cutting off thieves’ hands, and he seemed to be serious about it (referring to politicians who steal).

7. AMLO talked about getting rid of the Mexican presidential airplane, saying it is more expensive than Air Force One.  But, the Mexican president has to travel somehow, right?  Would AMLO have him travel in a regular plane with regular passengers?  Think of what a security nightmare that would be.

8. Margarita Zavala said Mexico is not a nation of corrupt people.

9. Bronco called for the end of the partidocracia, which makes sense as he is running as an independent.

10. Bronco also called for a second round in the Mexican presidential election (which I personally think would be a good idea).

11. AMLO said his movement would be the fourth transformation, after independence, the Reforma, the Revolution, and now MORENA.

12. Meade was not so impressed with MORENA, calling it a partido familiar,” a “family party.”

Those are my impressions, or at least what I was able to take notes of.

On April 23rd, the day after the debate, Reuters reported a Reforma telephone poll of 245 respondents that picked Anaya as the winner of the debate, but not overwhelmingly (36% for Anaya and 34% for AMLO).  Reforma also ran a poll of “903 leading citizens,” in which 68% called Anaya the debate winner and 16% designated AMLO.

The latest Bloomberg poll (current election preference, not the debate) has AMLO at 46.6%, Anaya at 27.9%, Meade at 18.6%, Margarita Zavala at 3.8%, and Bronco with 2.8%.

The next debate is scheduled for May 20th, in Tijuana, Baja California.

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Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at http://www.allanwall.info.

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