Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Economy, drug war affect Mexico election: ; Midterm elections could determine success of Calderon's policies

MEXICO CITY - Drug violence, an economic downturn and recentcases of political malfeasance weigh heavily on Mexico's midtermcongressional elections, a vote that could decide the future ofPresident Felipe Calderon's anti-crime and economic policies.

Calderon's National Action Party, PAN, hopes its nationwidecrackdown on drug cartels will win it a bigger share of the 500-seat lower house of Congress, where it currently holds 206 spots.But polls suggest the gains will go to the former longtime rulingInstitutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, which now has 106 seats.

The PAN ran a bruising campaign in which it practically accusedthe PRI of tolerating drug trafficking. That angered PRI members,and if the party and its allies win enough seats to form a majority,it could block Calderon's efforts to reform police forces and givemore police powers to 45,000 soldiers deployed to fight well-armeddrug gangs.

The vote for 565 mayors and six governorships - including thenorthern border states of Nuevo Leon and Sonora - is also seen as areferendum on an economy that shrank 8.2 percent in the firstquarter and is expected to contract 5.5 percent for the year as awhole.

The economic crisis has been compounded by a drop in money senthome by Mexicans working abroad and by a decrease in oil income fromthe slump in world petroleum prices. Those are Mexico's two biggestsources of foreign currency.

Many activists and intellectuals have urged voters to annul theirvote or deface their ballot in protest against the largelygovernment-funded political parties that have done little to breakMexico out of the doldrums. But many more Mexicans - perhaps as manyas 70 percent of the 77.5 million registered voters - are likely tosimply stay away from the polls.

The PRI appears likely to win most statehouse races. One of thePAN's biggest hopes lies in Sonora, where the PRI state government'simage suffered after a fire at an ill-equipped, government-approvedday-care center killed 48 children in June.

A wave of arrests of public servants and police for drug-relatedcorruption and a string of highly publicized kidnappings andextortions have added to the disenchantment with politicians.

The leftist Democratic Revolution Party, whose candidate AndresManuel Lopez Obrador barely lost the 2006 presidential race toCalderon, currently has 126 seats in Congress but has sufferedserious internal splits and is expected to drop precipitously aftersome of its more militant members turned to the smaller Labor Party.

The PRI ruled Mexico for more than seven decades until it lostthe presidency in the 2000. While it was long held together by theall-powerful figure of the president, the party has become morefractious and dominated by state leaders and regional interestssince losing national power.

Angry over the mudslinging campaign and already looking to regainthe presidency in 2012, the PRI could become a spoiler for anyfuture reform proposals. Its extensive party machine and broadnational presence would give it an edge in the event of a smallturnout or a large number of protest votes.

"To the extent people nullify their ballots, institutions will beweakened and the PRI's network of control will go into action, andthey will win a majority," warned the conservative, PAN-alignedcivic group Better Society, Better Government.

The null-vote movement wants reforms such as reducing thegenerous government funding for parties, making recalls of electedofficials easier and allowing write-in votes or independentcandidates.

Economy, drug war affect Mexico election: ; Midterm elections could determine success of Calderon's policies

MEXICO CITY - Drug violence, an economic downturn and recentcases of political malfeasance weigh heavily on Mexico's midtermcongressional elections, a vote that could decide the future ofPresident Felipe Calderon's anti-crime and economic policies.

Calderon's National Action Party, PAN, hopes its nationwidecrackdown on drug cartels will win it a bigger share of the 500-seat lower house of Congress, where it currently holds 206 spots.But polls suggest the gains will go to the former longtime rulingInstitutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, which now has 106 seats.

The PAN ran a bruising campaign in which it practically accusedthe PRI of tolerating drug trafficking. That angered PRI members,and if the party and its allies win enough seats to form a majority,it could block Calderon's efforts to reform police forces and givemore police powers to 45,000 soldiers deployed to fight well-armeddrug gangs.

The vote for 565 mayors and six governorships - including thenorthern border states of Nuevo Leon and Sonora - is also seen as areferendum on an economy that shrank 8.2 percent in the firstquarter and is expected to contract 5.5 percent for the year as awhole.

The economic crisis has been compounded by a drop in money senthome by Mexicans working abroad and by a decrease in oil income fromthe slump in world petroleum prices. Those are Mexico's two biggestsources of foreign currency.

Many activists and intellectuals have urged voters to annul theirvote or deface their ballot in protest against the largelygovernment-funded political parties that have done little to breakMexico out of the doldrums. But many more Mexicans - perhaps as manyas 70 percent of the 77.5 million registered voters - are likely tosimply stay away from the polls.

The PRI appears likely to win most statehouse races. One of thePAN's biggest hopes lies in Sonora, where the PRI state government'simage suffered after a fire at an ill-equipped, government-approvedday-care center killed 48 children in June.

A wave of arrests of public servants and police for drug-relatedcorruption and a string of highly publicized kidnappings andextortions have added to the disenchantment with politicians.

The leftist Democratic Revolution Party, whose candidate AndresManuel Lopez Obrador barely lost the 2006 presidential race toCalderon, currently has 126 seats in Congress but has sufferedserious internal splits and is expected to drop precipitously aftersome of its more militant members turned to the smaller Labor Party.

The PRI ruled Mexico for more than seven decades until it lostthe presidency in the 2000. While it was long held together by theall-powerful figure of the president, the party has become morefractious and dominated by state leaders and regional interestssince losing national power.

Angry over the mudslinging campaign and already looking to regainthe presidency in 2012, the PRI could become a spoiler for anyfuture reform proposals. Its extensive party machine and broadnational presence would give it an edge in the event of a smallturnout or a large number of protest votes.

"To the extent people nullify their ballots, institutions will beweakened and the PRI's network of control will go into action, andthey will win a majority," warned the conservative, PAN-alignedcivic group Better Society, Better Government.

The null-vote movement wants reforms such as reducing thegenerous government funding for parties, making recalls of electedofficials easier and allowing write-in votes or independentcandidates.

Economy, drug war affect Mexico election: ; Midterm elections could determine success of Calderon's policies

MEXICO CITY - Drug violence, an economic downturn and recentcases of political malfeasance weigh heavily on Mexico's midtermcongressional elections, a vote that could decide the future ofPresident Felipe Calderon's anti-crime and economic policies.

Calderon's National Action Party, PAN, hopes its nationwidecrackdown on drug cartels will win it a bigger share of the 500-seat lower house of Congress, where it currently holds 206 spots.But polls suggest the gains will go to the former longtime rulingInstitutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, which now has 106 seats.

The PAN ran a bruising campaign in which it practically accusedthe PRI of tolerating drug trafficking. That angered PRI members,and if the party and its allies win enough seats to form a majority,it could block Calderon's efforts to reform police forces and givemore police powers to 45,000 soldiers deployed to fight well-armeddrug gangs.

The vote for 565 mayors and six governorships - including thenorthern border states of Nuevo Leon and Sonora - is also seen as areferendum on an economy that shrank 8.2 percent in the firstquarter and is expected to contract 5.5 percent for the year as awhole.

The economic crisis has been compounded by a drop in money senthome by Mexicans working abroad and by a decrease in oil income fromthe slump in world petroleum prices. Those are Mexico's two biggestsources of foreign currency.

Many activists and intellectuals have urged voters to annul theirvote or deface their ballot in protest against the largelygovernment-funded political parties that have done little to breakMexico out of the doldrums. But many more Mexicans - perhaps as manyas 70 percent of the 77.5 million registered voters - are likely tosimply stay away from the polls.

The PRI appears likely to win most statehouse races. One of thePAN's biggest hopes lies in Sonora, where the PRI state government'simage suffered after a fire at an ill-equipped, government-approvedday-care center killed 48 children in June.

A wave of arrests of public servants and police for drug-relatedcorruption and a string of highly publicized kidnappings andextortions have added to the disenchantment with politicians.

The leftist Democratic Revolution Party, whose candidate AndresManuel Lopez Obrador barely lost the 2006 presidential race toCalderon, currently has 126 seats in Congress but has sufferedserious internal splits and is expected to drop precipitously aftersome of its more militant members turned to the smaller Labor Party.

The PRI ruled Mexico for more than seven decades until it lostthe presidency in the 2000. While it was long held together by theall-powerful figure of the president, the party has become morefractious and dominated by state leaders and regional interestssince losing national power.

Angry over the mudslinging campaign and already looking to regainthe presidency in 2012, the PRI could become a spoiler for anyfuture reform proposals. Its extensive party machine and broadnational presence would give it an edge in the event of a smallturnout or a large number of protest votes.

"To the extent people nullify their ballots, institutions will beweakened and the PRI's network of control will go into action, andthey will win a majority," warned the conservative, PAN-alignedcivic group Better Society, Better Government.

The null-vote movement wants reforms such as reducing thegenerous government funding for parties, making recalls of electedofficials easier and allowing write-in votes or independentcandidates.

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