06 July 2006

PAN by a nose.

With 99.36% of the 130,477 precincts in Mexico recounted, right leaning PAN candidate, Felipe Calderón beat left leaning PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador by 35.79% to 35.40% of the vote, just 0.39 perecentage points out of the 41 million cast. The preliminary count had Calderón ahead by about a full percentage point, so his lead thinned by about 60%. Yesterday evening it looked like the results would come out the other way, but Calderón was very strong in the precincts that happened to be among the last 15% counted.

The election was accompanied by widespread allegations of fraud, something new for the PAN, which was decades was on the receiving end of fraud allegations aimed at the PRI, rather than being the purported beneficiary of it. It isn't beyond all possibility that election litigation could change the razor thin result, but at this point it seems unlikely.

Calderón will take office without much of a mandate, as 64% of voters didn't vote for him, and 40% of eligible voters didn't vote at all. Given the PAN's minority standing in the House of Deputies in Mexico, where it has about 40% of the seats, Calderón will have to rely on support from the rapidly decaying PRI, which ruled Mexico for seven decades, but is rapidly shedding support to the PAN and PDR. The PRI won only about 22% of the Presidential race vote, and a similar share of the House of Deputies, under Mexico's proportional representation system in this election. This share likely to continue to decline. But, because the PRI's politics are more muddled than the PDR which are clearly in opposition to the PAN, it holds the swing vote in the House of Deputies.

U.S.-Mexico relations are likely to be business as usual. Calderón's predecessor in Mexico's presidency, Vincente Fox, was likewise from the National Action Party, and likewise lacked a majority in the House of Deputies. Also, it bears rememebering that while the PAN is the dominant party of the right on the Mexican political scene, that neither the PAN, nor Calderón in particular, are as conservative as their American counterparts, the Republican Party and George W. Bush, on many issues.

Vincente Fox, for example, allowed legislation decriminalizing possession of small quantities of drugs in Mexico (even so called "hard drugs") to become law, and is actually to the left of Governor Owens on the issue of emergency contraception, which is legal in Mexico, even though abortion is almost completely banned in Mexico, as it is in most of the rest of Latin America. Likewise the PAN's close affinity with the conservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church means that it is not pro-death penalty, a point of tension in many extradition disputes with its neighbor to the North.

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