A combination of more competitive elections and weak campaign-finance controls has opened the door for illegal money from outside sources to make its way into Mexico's 2006 presidential and congressional campaigns.
The outside funds would be in addition to the 4.9 billion pesos (US$451 million) the Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE) is planning to distribute to the eight political parties that qualified to participate in the elections. Mexico's electoral code allows parties to raise a matching amount from private contributors, but controls are inadequate and spending caps are frequently ignored.
The IFE has also requested 6.9 billion pesos (US$635 million) for operational costs for the elections, making this the most expensive election in Mexican history. The IFE budget request surpassed the allocation for 2000 by 12.7% and for the 2003 midterm congressional election by 2.5%. The IFE's request for more operational funds is in addition to the 1.2 billion pesos (US$110 million) requested to cover expenditures for a postal voting system for expatriates to cast their ballots in the presidential race. The postal system was a compromise to a more expensive plan proposed by the Chamber of Deputies (see SourceMex, 2005-01-12 and 2005-08-31).
Some critics questioned the IFE's budget request, pointing out that the total of 12.9 billion pesos (US$1.18 billion) is a much higher amount than the government spends on anti-poverty programs.
By some estimates, the cost of the 2006 election will translate to about 290 pesos (US$26.70) for each ballot cast, compared with only about 3 pesos (U$0.27) in 1991. Until the last two or three presidential elections, however, spending had been down because there was no viable challenger to the candidates of the long-governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).
Spending already high on primary campaigns
The IFE expenditures are only the tip of the iceberg, with outside funds already making their way into the primary elections, which are not regulated. "As long as the primaries are not regulated, we will see illicit funds entering the campaigns," said Elias Huerta Psihas, president of the Asociacion Nacional de Doctores en Derecho (ANDD).
Candidates in the presidential primaries for the center-right Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) and the former governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) have already spent large sums. The Mexico City mayoral election is also becoming an expensive race, especially among contenders from the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD).
The four PRI members challenging then party president Roberto Madrazo for the right to represent the PRI in the 2006 presidential election had spent 189 million pesos (US$17.4 million), mostly on television and radio advertisements, as of late July. The four contenders--Govs. Enrique Martinez of Coahuila, Arturo Montiel of Mexico state, and Tomas Yarrington of Tamaulipas, and Sen. Enrique Jackson--used the spots primarily to criticize Madrazo rather than to attack each other. In a nationwide survey conducted among PRI members and voters at large, Montiel defeated his three rivals (see SourceMex, 2005-08-17). He will face Madrazo in a primary on a yet-to-be-determined date this fall.
Campaign expenditures have also surged among the PAN presidential candidates, who had spent about 193 million pesos (US$17.8 million) on the campaign during May-August of this year. Former interior secretary Santiago Creel Miranda has been responsible for the lion's share of the spending. Even with the large expenditures, Creel appears in danger of losing the nomination to former energy secretary Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, who won handily in the first of three primaries conducted by the PAN among its members.
The PRD is saving its funds for the general election, since ex-Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is facing …