During my time in Mexico (1980-84), I found that midterm elections were treated like a joke and drew very little interest from the population.
I will never forget the summer of 1982. On one corner, there were signs about the elections. On the other corner, most Mexicans were watching the World Cup in restaurants, taquerías, and cantinas.
It was the natural consequence of a presidential system and a one-party state. In other words, everybody knew the results before the votes were counted, as a Mexican friend said.
That was then, but it's very different now.
For better or worse, Mexico has a very passionate political landscape these days.
They have three active political parties and a bunch of other little ones, as my friend Allan Wall reported last week.
The elections will be a big referendum on President Peña Nieto:
This mid-term vote can be considered a referendum on the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Working with the current Congress, his administration has accomplished several reforms, including the energy reform, but it is under fire for its handling of the Iguala Atrocity and other issues.According to a poll in Mexico, President Peña Nieto has a 57% disapproval rate. I believe it!
Like other elected leaders, President Peña Nieto is facing a perfect storm.
On the positive side, he accomplished major reforms of energy and education.
The left in Mexico declared war on President Peña Nieto because of his energy reforms and the way that he tackled the public teachers' union.
It's true that the left staged big marches against the president's reforms. At the same time, the middle class is usually working, so they don't have time to block traffic and airports like the left does. The marches were loud, and often obscene, but they don't really represent public opinion in Mexico.
However, my Mexican friends tell me that most of the middle class supported the reforms. They saw the energy reform as economic reality and the teachers' unions as corrupt.
On the negative side, there is crime and more crime. This is the big issue. This is the issue costing him politically.
President Peña Nieto has also been hurt by the way he handled the killing of the 47 students up north. He seemed slow and unwilling to understand that Mexicans are fed up with the cartel violence. He is clearly on the defensive on this issue.
We will see how the elections turn out. In the past, most Mexicans, and Americans, did not pay attention to elections south of the border. We had better pay attention now, because Mexico matters a lot, from its economic ties (U.S. $493 billion, and lots of jobs on both sides) and the border issues of people flow and drug cartels.
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