By Navarro, Carlos
SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico
The elections in Michoacan state on Nov. 13 consolidated the position of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) ahead of the 2012 presidential vote but were also a major blow to the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD), which had governed the state for the past two terms. In an election marred by allegations that drug cartels influenced the final results, the PRI narrowly won the gubernatorial race and took a majority of legislative districts and mayoral seats.
The race was also somewhat of a disappointment for the Partido Accion Nacional (PAN), which had hoped to score a symbolic victory in Felipe Calderon's home state. The PAN narrowly lost the gubernatorial race and turned in a fairly weak performance in the legislative and mayoral races.
While the PRD failed to retain the gubernatorial seat in Michoacan, the center-left party and its allies took a major step during November to unite behind a single candidate. In a nationwide survey by two major polling organizations, respondents affirmed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as the candidate of the center-left coalition in the 2012 election. Lopez Obrador received three votes for every two for his rival, Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard.
PRI retakes governor's seat, wins many mayoral, state legislative races
The PRI victory in the Michoacan gubernatorial race came as a mild surprise, since PAN candidate Maria Luisa Calderon had a slight lead in some polls in the weeks leading to the election. Calderon, sister of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, was far behind at the start of the campaign but quickly narrowed a 22-point deficit to take the lead in one poll. In the end, Calderon received about 33% of the vote, compared with 35% for Fausto Vallejo Figueroa of the PRI and 29% for Silvano Aureoles Conejo of the PRD.
For the PRI, the victory means that the party will return to the governor's seat for the first time since 2002. Lazaro Cardenas Batel and Leonel Godoy Rangel of the PRD have led the state for the past 12 years.
The PRI also performed well in the state legislative elections, winning 11 seats, compared with eight for the PRD and five for the PAN. This is also a turnaround for the PRI, which won only five districts in the 2008 legislative races, compared with 11 for the PRD and eight for the PAN. An additional 16 seats will be distributed based on the percentage of the vote received by each party participating in the election.
The PRI won 44 mayoral elections, compared with 31 for the PRD, 28 for the PAN, three for the Partido del Trabajo (PT), and one each for the Partido Verde Ecologista de Mexico (PVEM) and the Movimiento Ciudadano (MC). The MC was previously known as the Partido Convergencia por la Democracia (PCD). An odd alliance among the PAN, PRI, and PVEM won three other seats.
One of the biggest prizes was the capital city of Morelia, which the PRI won handily. The party also was the victor in most other major cities, including Patzcuaro, Apatzingan, Uruapan, and Zitacuaro. The major exception was the important port city of Lazaro Cardenas, which went to the PRD.
The election results should boost the presidential aspirations of PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto in 2012. The ex-Mexico state governor acknowledged as much during a speech in Washington, DC, in the aftermath of the Michoacan vote. "This victory in Michoacan consolidates and supports the PRI's position around the country as the party with the most support among the electorate," Pena Nieto said during a presentation at the Woodrow Wilson Center in the US capital.
Did organized crime have a hand in the election outcome?
The PRI's narrow victory in the gubernatorial race drew expected challenges from the PAN and the PRD, particularly in light of allegations that drug cartels had major influence on the outcome.
Recent reports published by the Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR) and the Secretaria de Seguridad Publica (SSP) confirm that La Familia and its offshoot the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) have gained control of many communities in the mountains of Michoacan, even in some medium-sized cities such as La Piedad. …