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Dispatches From Mexico City: An Election Primer

Author: ChannelE2E blogger and resident musician Ty Trumbull

Millions of Mexicans will gather this July to elect a new president, state governors, and city mayors, along with other elected positions. As a local resident, it’s impossible for me to avoid the advertisements and campaigning around the city.

I have a neighbor who is a fervent supporter of the left-wing candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador – often abbreviated to AMLO. Almost daily, my neighbor will yell at me, asking if López Obrador and his Morena party have my support. I nod my head in agreement give a thumbs up, slightly embarrassed that, as a temporary resident, even if I did support AMLO I couldn’t vote for him.

The truth is, it’s difficult to take the time to educate myself on the issues when I can’t have a say in them. Loyal readers know I’m Canadian. I’ve been politically engaged in Canada since before I could vote and I’ve handed in a ballot in every municipal, provincial, and national election since I was old enough to vote. But here in Mexico, it’s harder to have an opinion.

López Obrador is leading in the polls. The candidate himself has said his party could win a majority in Congress. But if you ask many people, they don’t expect things to change. The country’s politics have been largely dominated by two parties: PRI and PAN, with many of my friends telling me the differences between the two are nearly indiscernible. A third major party, the PRD, also has a strong presence and interestingly, AMLO was once the party leader before breaking off to help found the MORENA party.

López Obrador first ran for president in 2006 as the PRD candidate. His loss to Felipe Calderón (by 243,000 votes) sparked large protests and calls for recounts. To this day, many people believe he was the rightful winner.

One friendly taxi driver I spoke with this past weekend said he believes the PRI party will find a way to hold on to power, even though the polls show them in a distant third place. The PRI held power in Mexico uninterrupted from 1929 to 2000, beginning as a leftist-socialist party and eventually evolving into a center-right organization after reforms in the 1980s. This caused many of the party to break off and form the PRD.

Interestingly, the PRI has been caught up in the recent Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal. According to an investigation by British television Channel 4 News, the consultancy firm worked with the PRI until at least January 2018. The exact nature of the relationship – or indeed, whether a relationship was ever solidified – has not been proven.

While it is nearly impossible to engage with the upcoming Mexican election like I would in Canada, it’s certainly interesting to watch. I’m learning more about how the parties operate, their specific platforms, and their individual histories. What happens over the next two months could have a profound impact on not just our lives here, but also the world. NAFTA renegotiations are still underway and depending on how things unfold the outcome of those talks could be severely affected.

Still, since we’re unable to vote all we can do is watch and wait.


Ty Trumbull, from his base in Mexico City, covers the entrepreneur’s journey and business continuity for ChannelE2E. Each Tuesday or so, he offers views about his adopted hometown — his personal Dispatches from Mexico City. Oh, but sometimes he pops up in his home nation of Canada.

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