For Mexicans, relief that next president won't have free rein
Peña Nieto's win restores power to the PRI, which long held an authoritarian grip on Mexico before being ousted 12 years ago. But more than a decade of democracy has changed things.
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“You have more counterbalances,”says Maureen Meyer, Mexico analyst with the Washington Office on Latin America. “You have a civil society that has been building its influence. You have stronger political parties in general.”Skip to next paragraph
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The PRI “won’t be able to go back to business as usual,” she adds.
One of the biggest sources of power for the PRI came from its ability to control the vote. In 1988, the party was widely accused of having rigged the elections, after a leftist candidate was coming out front. But in the wake of the outcry the government began the process of overhauling its electoral system, reforms that were strengthened throughout the 90s. By the time the PRI lost in 2000 for the first time, Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) was considered one of the world's best.
The confidence in the electoral body was tested after Mexico's last presidential election in 2006, when Mr. Lopez Obrador, in his first presidential bid, declared fraud and refused to recognize election results, after losing the race by less than a percentage point. And the feeling that the election was “stolen” is still strong among Lopez Obrador's supporters.
“Of course the vote was robbed in 2006,” says Hector Galvan, a young resident of Mexico City who works in human resources. “Everything is corruptible here.”
But the reputation of the IFE hasn't budged among electoral experts. “Not only is electoral fraud virtually impossible under the IFE, but Mexico designed and implemented within a 12-year period of time the most professional, independent, impartial electoral systems in the Americas and one of the best in the world,” says Robert Pastor, director of the Center for North American Studies at American University in Washington and author of the book “The North American Idea.”
Another accountability mechanism similarly emerged in a way that cannot be turned back: civil society. In fact, the Mexican civil organizations that pushed for democracy are now celebrating their silver anniversaries. Business groups are increasingly acting as civic watchdogs, pressing for greater transparency and accountability in government. Human rights groups have proliferated: The Human Rights Network boasts more than 70 member groups in 22 states; 10 years ago, there were fewer than 50, says Ms. Meyer.
Meyer points to Alianza Civica, one of Mexico’s longest-standing democracy organizations and business-backed organizations such as Mexicans United Against Crime.Newcomers like the peace movement headed up by poet Javier Sicilia and the recent student movement, #YoSoy132, which arose to protest what it called media bias in the positive coverage of Peña Nieto, have re-energized Mexican society around efforts to curb violence, reduce official corruption, and increase transparency.