Monday, June 15, 2015

Today's Mexico City Headlines: Uncovered

Three of our five dailies front the first announced candidate for the next president of Mexico, who happens to be the former first lady during the Felipe Calderón administration (2006-20012). Reforma’s headline: “Margarita Zavala uncovers herself for 2018.”
    That’s not as risqué as it sounds. Destapar really does mean “uncover,” which was the verb of choice for how 20th-century presidents revealed their chosen successor during the PRI’s perfect dictatorship. Those days are gone, but the verb remains, shifted to the reflexive.
    Zavala of course has some advantages by virtue of her marriage, but that’s not all she’s about. The two met as young National Action Party (PAN) militants more or less on even footing, and she served in the Chamber of Deputies before Calderón assumed the presidency.
    That said, her announcement on Sunday, via YouTube, is a little weird. For one thing, it came just a week after the Sunday midterm, and a full three years before the presidential election. What’s the rush?
    The short answer is that it was her way of sticking it to her rivals within the PAN. Margarita and Felipe last year backed a sympathetic candidate for the party leadership against the faction led by Gustavo Madero, who’s assumed to have presidential aspirations of his own, though he denies it.
    (His latest denial emphasized vehemence over credibility. When asked if he wanted to run for president of Mexico, he replied, “No me chinguen.” Try Google translate.)
    The Calderón/Zavala faction lost that battle, and Margarita was soon punished by being denied a PAN candidacy for a return to the Chamber of Deputies. She responded by threatening to run for the party presidency next time around, but decided to run for president instead.
    Her pre-emptive announcement was clearly her way of telling the party leaders that she has no intention of letting them decide her fate. She’s out there on her own now, and her game plan seems to be to accumulate enough support to force her nomination. She certainly has enough time to do it.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Today's Mexico City Headlines: The course of coverage of Mexican elections starts with trouble at the voting stations and works its way to trouble in the counting room. In between, there are results.

Catching up on the week, the progression of top front-page election headlines in La Jornada provide a useful summary of post-election-day coverage. Sunday’s online updates were all about troubles at the voting booths, since there was nothing else to cover. They were serious — polling stations burning down is news — but not nearly as widespread as the daylong focus seemed to indicate.
    Then came the news, day by day. 
    Monday morning: “In Nuevo León, the winner would be the independent El Bronco.” That conditional tense (sería in the original, instead of es or será) recognizes how early the returns were, but Jaime Rodríguez’s historic win in the governor’s race was so overwhelming that he got the glory headlines before anybody else. He's the first independent to win a major public office in modern Mexican history.
    Tuesday morning: “PRD and Morena tie in the DF Assembly.” It looked at the time that the two left-of-center parties would each win 16 of the 40 directly elected seats on Mexico City’s 66-member legislative body. If that result had stood up, it would have marked an impressive debut for Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s nascent Morena party. But the next day . . .
    Wednesday morning: “Morena the top political force in the DF Assembly.” The updated results were more than impressive. "Staggering" might be the word. They gave Morena 18, the PRD 14, the PAN five and the PRI three. For Morena, it was 0 to plurality in one election. For the PRD, it was the end of its majority.
    Thursday morning: “INE will recount the votes in 60% of the precincts.” This recounting by the National Electoral Institute was for accuracy. It sounds like a lot at 60%, but it was 56% in 2012. This head takes us to the next stage of the usual election coverage sequence, which starts with election-day logistics, then preliminary results, then more solid results, then technical glitches, which continued, in La Jornada at least, the next day . . .
    Friday morning: “INE vote count provoking chaos in the election figures.” Part of that “chaos” (a favorite hyperbolic expression that all the papers like to use) had to do with INE figures that gave results with “100.62%” of the vote counted. After glitch coverage comes the next stage  . . . the challenges.
   This morning: “Morena demands annulled elections or recounts in six delegations.” Morena also nabbed more Mexico City delegaciones, or boroughs, than the PRD, but it wants more. The party is claiming that irregularities in the borough chief vote in six of the boroughs that it didn’t win are serious enough to annul those boroughs' election or at least require a vote-by-vote recount. It may sound like Morena is acting like a sore winner, but these challenges are a permitted part of the process that all the major parties resort to at one time or another — though AMLO is the undisputed king of the impugnaciones.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Today's Mexico City Headlines: Independent thinking

The results rolled in slowly Sunday night, so most of the papers had to be tentative in naming winners for their morning print editions.
    But they weren’t shy about the new Nuevo León governor. The independent candidate Jaime Rodríguez, aka El Bronco, had things wrapped up early, eventually finishing with more than 48 percent of the vote in a three-way race.
    That gave Reforma and Excelsior the chance to try to out-verb each other in their lead front-page heads, the former with “El Bronco overwhelms (arrolla) in NL,” and the latter with “El Bronco annihilates (arrasa) in NL." I call the verb-off a draw in Spanish, but a double disqualification in English, where in translation both verbs sound like transitive soldiers sent into battle in an intransitive cause.
    In Milenio’s lead head, Rodríguez has to share billing with three other gubernatorial winners: “El Bronco, Astudillo, Aureoles and Pavlovich will govern.” I can’t remember ever seeing Rodríguez appear in a headline during the entire campaign with his real name; it’s a wonder people knew how to vote for him.
    As for the other (real) names, Héctor Astudillo took back from the PRD the Guerrero governorship for the PRI, while Silvano Aureoles took back from the PRI the Michoacán governorship for the PRD. The cost of victory for each is that they now have to govern. They will each try to avoid the fate of the last elected governors of those states, both of which had to step down under low-hanging clouds of suspicion.
    Claudia Pavlovich kept Sonora for the PRI. She will be the state's first female governor.
    La Jornada relegates EL Bronco to the kicker above a ho-hum head: “PRI ahead in 4 governorships, AN in 2, PRD in one.” AN is short for PAN, which is short for the National Action Party, which is the business-friendly, pro-Church party that generally runs well in conservative areas. There were actually nine governorships voted on Sunday. The PAN’s two wins were in Baja California Sur and Querétaro; the PRI’s four in Guerrero, Campeche, Sonora and San Luis Potosí. The PRD won Michoacán. The small Pacific state of Colima is so close between the PAN and the PRI that it will have to wait for the official results to come out later this week, and probably longer.
    But it’s the ninth state, Nuevo León, where the big story is. An independent has never won a major post in modern Mexican history, for the simple reason that candidates were until recently forbidden to run without party affiliation. EL Bronco’s win — an impressive one in an important, commercial border state — is sure to change the electoral ecology in 2018.
    El Universal’s focus is on the congressional race, in which all 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the federal Congress, are being replaced (the return of re-electable legislators, banned since revolutionary times a century ago, is still a cycle away). El Universal tells the story in its lead head: “PRI and allies rub up on a majority.” It has since become clear that President Peña Nieto’s PRI, with the help of its coalition partner, the Green Party, will keep it’s majority, not just rub up against it.
    That’s a victory for the president. You have to remember, though, that modern PRI victories are less about winning hearts and minds as they are about organization, stability, and other less savory vote inducements. The criticism and ill will aimed his way may tone down a bit, but open season on the president is probably not over.
    What the papers mostly ignore this morning — probably because even partial results were unavailable before midnight — is the Lear-like tragedy of the PRD, coupled with the impressive debut of its new rival on the left, Morena.
    The PRD still occupies third place in the Chamber (behind the PAN), but is down to just 10.83 percent. Morena, in its maiden voyage, damn near caught them with 8.38 percent.
    Things are worse for the PRD — and corollarily better for Morena — in the Federal District. There the PRD not only lost its majority in Mexico City’s legislative assembly, it may end up with fewer seats than Morena. Also, the PRD controlled 14 of the 16 Mexico City boroughs before the vote. It appears to be down to six now, with Morena taking five of the eight that the PRD lost.
    So along with Enrique Peña Nieto, Andrés Manuel López Obrador has good reason to be pleased with Sunday’s results. He’ll be running for president again in 2018, this time on the Morena ticket, against the PRI and Pan candidates  . . . and, no doubt, against an independent as well.