Agriculture Crisis Could Create Difficulties for Governing Party in Upcoming July Elections

SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico, February 12, 2003 | Go to article overview

Agriculture Crisis Could Create Difficulties for Governing Party in Upcoming July Elections


President Vicente Fox's center-right Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) could face difficulties in the upcoming congressional and presidential elections because of the federal government's perceived lack of support for the agriculture sector. The elections, scheduled for July 6, will feature races for all 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, eight gubernatorial posts, and several positions in state and local government. The elections include races in the country's three largest cities: Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City.

Fox has made no secret of his desire to have the PAN win a plurality of seats in the Chamber of Deputies, but analysts say the president has not given voters any reason to vote for his party. The PAN, which holds 205 of the 500 seats in the lower house, could lose some ground if the opposition parties succeed in turning the election into a referendum on the performance of the Fox administration in the first half of its term, especially its inability to solve the country's agricultural crisis.

The former governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD) are hoping to increase their numbers in the Chamber of Deputies at the expense of the PAN, which would give the two parties more clout in opposing Fox's policies during the last three years of his administration. The PRI currently holds 209 seats in the lower house, while the PRD holds 54.

The PAN could also lose ground in the gubernatorial elections, with four of the contested seats--Queretaro, Morelos, Guanajuato, and Nuevo Leon--currently governed by members of the party. Three other states with governor's races in July--Mexico state, Colima, and Campeche-- are governed by the PRI. The remaining key race scheduled for July is the mayoral post, equivalent to a governorship, in the Federal District, comprising Mexico City. The PRD has governed the Mexican capital since the post became an elected position rather than an appointment in 1997 (see SourceMex, 1997-07-09).

Key gubernatorial and municipal elections are also scheduled for later in the year, with the PRI-led states of San Luis Potosi and Sonora electing a new chief executive on Sept. 7. These races will be followed by gubernatorial races in PRI-led Veracruz and Tabasco on Oct. 12 and in PAN-governed Jalisco on Nov. 9.

NAFTA renegotiation becomes key campaign issue

The PRI and the PRD are attempting to make the agriculture crisis a cornerstone of the upcoming elections. One strategy is to point to the Fox administration's poor record of funding agriculture programs and to criticize the administration for not defending the interests of Mexican farmers against foreign competition. A rallying point for the two opposition parties is the administration's refusal to renegotiate the agriculture sections of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), particularly given the elimination of tariffs that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2003 (see SourceMex, 2002-12-04, 2002-12-18 and 2003-01-09).

"With the purpose of winning a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, the PRI has proposed through its platform and in speeches by various candidates to channel more money to the rural sector in exchange for votes," the Mexico City daily newspaper Reforma said in a special pre-election analysis.

The article said the PRD's strategy to win votes from agriculture and campesino constituencies is to push for the renegotiation of the NAFTA agriculture section. The party has proposed that the agreement be modified to place more weight on Mexico's disadvantageous competitive position in agriculture relative to the US and Canada.

"To save Mexico, we have to save our agriculture sector," PRD president Rosario Robles Berlanga said at a PRD rally. "We will push with all our strength our demand that the government revise the agriculture section of NAFTA."

The PRD has joined with agriculture organizations, which have organized demonstrations in Mexico City and around the country to express their discontent with the state of Mexican agriculture. …

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