Change in Mexico?

Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has dominated its politics for the better part of a century, seems at risk of a defeat in the July 1 election. Brisk economic growth, low inflation and a sharp fall in unemployment have not contained the steady political slide under the corruption-tainted rule of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Simultaneously, the strong showing in opinion polls for the radical left-wing frontrunner, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the National Regeneration Movement, is linked to the peso’s sharp decline and a sense of drift. The threat of Washington quitting the North American Free Trade Agreement has loomed large over the latter part of Mr. Peña Nieto’s rule. But his challenges at home have been no less formidable. The fallout from the political mishandling of the mysterious disappearance of scores of children in 2014 has been severe. Mr. Peña Nieto’s government has also been at the centre of a political storm beginning with accusations that surfaced last year of illegal funding of his 2012 election. The sacking of the chief prosecutor investigating the allegations eroded the credibility of the government’s attempts to combat graft. Earlier this year, Mexico’s Congress blocked investigations into allegations of bribes received by public figures from a Brazilian firm. Official assertions that corruption was more a matter of perception than of scale have deepened public scepticism about the government’s intentions.

Mr. López Obrador, a three-time contender for the presidency and former Mayor of Mexico City, has sought to capitalise on this widespread disenchantment. While his rhetoric may sound too simplistic, voters could well give him the benefit of the doubt for want of an alternative. All the same, Mr. López Obrador’s rising popularity has sent jitters across the energy industry over the future of the contracts for oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, the PRI has designated José Antonio Meade, who has held key ministerial portfolios in the present and earlier conservative governments, as a presidential candidate. (Presidents are allowed just the one term in Mexico.) The calculation is that the technocrat’s independence from any party affiliation could broaden his appeal and, by implication, of the PRI with the electorate at large. Whatever the outcome on July 1, Mexico’s transition through the ballot seems an integral feature of the country’s polity. This is no mean achievement in Latin America, where extensions of presidential terms through constitutional fiat are routine. And going forward, FIFA’s decision to award the 2026 World Cup to the three NAFTA nations — Mexico, with the U.S. and Canada — will possibly lead to a more conducive overall climate in the region.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 3:19:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/change-in-mexico/article24187568.ece

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