February Elections Offer Glimpse of Changing Political Trends in Mexico

Article excerpt

The gubernatorial elections in three states on Feb. 6 offered a glimpse of changing political trends ahead of the 2006 presidential elections. The elections, held in Guerrero, Quintana Roo, and Baja California Sur, appeared to indicate that the wind has shifted in favor of the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD). The PRD scored sweeping victories in Guerrero and Baja California Sur and turned in a respectable showing in Quintana Roo, where the winner was the former governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).

The PRD performance was especially strong in Guerrero, where former Acapulco Mayor Zeferino Torreblanca Galindo took 55% of the vote, compared with only 42% for Hector Astudillo Flores of the PRI. Torreblanca's wide margin of victory provided a strong boost for the PRD, which had anticipated a tight race. (For more coverage of Guerrero election, see separate article in this issue of SourceMex).

The PRD, in partnership with the Partido Convergencia por la Democracia (PCD), also swept elections in Baja California Sur, where Narciso Agundez Montano took 44% of the vote, compared with 35% for Rodimiro Anaya of the PRI and its coalition partner the Partido Verde Ecologista Mexicano (PVEM). The PRD-PCD coalition also won 14 of 16 directly elected seats in the state legislature and four of the five mayoral races, including the state's largest city of La Paz. Agundez replaces his cousin Leonardo Cota Montano, also a PRD member.

The PRD came in a strong second in the gubernatorial election in Quintana Roo, which was won by Felix Gonzalez Canto of the PRI-PVEM coalition. Representing the PRD and its coalition partner, the Partido del Trabajo (PT), was Juan Garcia Zalvidea, the former PVEM mayor of Cancun, who received 34% of the vote. Addy Joaquin Coldwell, who defected from the PRI, obtained only 22% of the vote for the center-right Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) and its coalition partner, the PCD. While the PRI retained the governor's seat in Quintana Roo, the party will no longer completely dominate the state legislature. The PRI-PVEM alliance took 11 of the 25 directly elected seats, with the PAN-PCD and PRD-PT alliances each winning seven state legislative races.

Results negative for PRI

Based on its disappointing performance in Guerrero and its failure to make inroads in Baja California Sur, the PRI was considered a loser in these elections.

The losses were even greater for the PAN, however, which received support in the single digits in Guerrero and Baja California Sur, in what was considered another referendum on President Vicente Fox's performance in office. Even though the center-right party had not expected to do well in the two states, its failure to increase its support does not bode well for the PAN, which came in fourth in Baja California Sur.

The PAN's performance in Quintana Roo was mixed, with its candidate coming in a distant third in the gubernatorial elections. This was offset by moderate gains in mayoral and state legislative elections. In the mayoral races in Quintana Roo, the PRI won handily in Chetumal and managed to recover the mayoral post in Cancun but lost the seat in Cozumel to the PAN-PCD alliance.

While the PRD appeared to be the biggest winner in the February races, analysis offered by pundits was quite different from November 2004, when they declared that the PRI had taken the next step toward reclaiming the presidency in 2006. In elections held on Nov. 14, the PRI swept gubernatorial races in Puebla and Tamaulipas and won a narrow race in Sinaloa (see SourceMex, 2004-11-17). At that time, the PRD was labeled the loser because of its poor showing in the three races and in the Tlaxcala election, which it lost because of major divisions within the party. The PAN's narrow victory in Tlaxcala was more a product of divisions in the PRD and PRI and not of its strength in the state.

Still, when considering trends, the November races may have been an aberration in what appears to be an uncomfortable trend for the PRI, whose performance in other elections in 2004 was less than stellar. …