Government, Political Parties Worried about Potentially Low Voter Turnout in Upcoming July 6 Elections

Article excerpt

Electoral authorities and the three major political parties in Mexico are growing increasingly concerned about the potential for extremely low voter turnout in the upcoming congressional and gubernatorial elections on July 6. Mexicans will go to the polls on that date to elect all 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies, six governors, and hundreds of state and local officials.

Some forecasters are predicting that abstentionism could reach as high as 60% nationwide because of disenchantment with the three major political parties and the increasingly negative tone of political campaigns. The Registro Federal de Electores (RFE) recently reported that 64.5 million Mexicans are eligible to vote in the upcoming election. Some predictions indicate that anywhere between 32.5 million and 36 million of these voters will not cast a vote on July 6.

"The projection for low participation is alarming," said political scientist Jorge Buendia Laredo at the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM). "The most optimistic forecasts put voter participation at 50%, but many projections put this percentage between 40% and 45%."

Political analysts say the negative feeling of voters toward the three major parties is exacerbated by their internal divisions. The former governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) is in the midst of an especially nasty feud between the national party leadership and loyalists in Mexico state about the appointment of at- large candidates (see SourceMex, 2003-05-14). That is the latest in a series of internal disputes among PRI loyalists (see SourceMex, 2002-01-30 and 2002-02-07).

The center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD) and the governing conservative Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) have also had some very public feuds in the past years, which threaten to undermine the parties' positions in the election (see SourceMex, 2002-03-13 and 2002-04-03).

"All three parties are entering the election with still- unresolved internal fissures," said the Mexico City daily newspaper La Jornada. "A scenario is developing in which the party that gains the most votes will do so amid abstentionism of 50% or higher."

Political campaigns lack substance

Some columnists say the various political parties have developed campaigns that are shallow in content and oriented toward presenting an image. Mario Abad Shoster, a columnist in the weekly news magazine Epoca, said the political speeches and television advertisements have lacked serious proposals on how to address such issues as unemployment and crime. "The campaigns have become a huge reality show," said Abad.

Other election observers say the campaigns lack substance and are geared toward efforts to discredit the opponent. "There are no proposals or solutions offered," said prominent political analyst Lorenzo Meyer of El Colegio de Mexico.

Some critics say President Vicente Fox may be partly to blame for the anticipated apathy in the upcoming election. "There is a strong disillusionment among the citizenry because the expectations raised by President Vicente Fox in his 2000 campaign were not met," said PRD spokesperson Javier Hidalgo.

This opinion is shared by some business organizations, who also blame the Mexican Congress. "The inability of our leaders to keep their promises has resulted in a lack of interest in the campaigns of candidates for federal deputy," said Raul Abraham Mafud, president of the Yucatan chapter of the Camara Nacional de la Industria de la Transformacion (CANACINTRA).

Other business leaders, however, point out that midterm elections tend to attract fewer participants than elections when the presidency is contested. "The voters tend to know less about the candidates," said Hector Rangel Domene, president of the Consejo Coordinador Empresarial (CCE). "This also occurs with midterm elections in other countries."

Parties fight about who has right to promote vote

Much of the bickering in the campaigns has centered on which individual, political party, or agency has the right to promote participation in the elections. …