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2 Chronicle of a Victory Foretold Candidates, Parties, and Campaign Strategies in the 2012 Mexican Presidential Election KATHLEEN BRUHN Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí. When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there. Augusto Monterroso, 1959 There was never much suspense about the outcome of the 2012 Mexican presidential election. Well before the official start of the campaign—or even the selection of candidates—polls consistently showed the eventual winner, Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN) of the former ruling party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI), with a commanding lead over all rivals. The only surprise was that the once-vilified PRI, whose demise many prematurely predicted after it lost the presidency in 2000, was back in charge after only two terms out of power. Although the campaign did not lead to the defeat of the early front-runner, as had the presidential campaigns of 2000 and 2006, it did have a significant impact on the margin of victory, the balance of power in the legislature, the order of finish of the candidates, and turnout rates, particularly among the young. The election was no mere formality; it had to be won, and it was fiercely contested. Campaigns are also a key moment in the functioning of democracy. Close observation of campaigns in any democracy can lay bare the extent to which the political system offers voters clear and meaningful choices, provides them with the necessary information to decide which of these choices best represents their own preferred policies, allows them to make their choice without coercion or intimidation, and ensures that their votes are counted honestly. These are precisely the criteria on which experts determine whether a country may be legitimately classified as a democracy at all. Campaigns are the first link in the chain of representation that begins with the selection of representatives and ends with the implementation of policy (Domínguez and Lawson 2004; Lawson 2000). Chronicle of a Victory Foretold 33 What does the 2012 presidential campaign tell us about representation and democracy in Mexico? All is not well. The parties are stable on the surface but hollow at their core. Electoral institutions functioned smoothly, but voters seem increasingly alienated. The greatest excitement of the entire campaign had little to do with the candidates or the outcome, but focused on a more or less antipolitical Internet movement that disappeared after the election almost as quickly as it had emerged. Four facets of the campaign deserve particular attention. First, the campaign turned almost entirely on the personal competence of the candidates. The top two issue priorities for Mexicans were clear: jobs and economic growth on the one hand, and crime and public insecurity on the other. But rather than engage in a spirited debate about the proper policies to address these priorities, as in the US presidential campaign of the same year, Mexican presidential candidates simply claimed they were the best individuals to do the job; how did not really matter. Yet it should, in fact, matter whether a president plans to resolve the problem of public insecurity by strengthening courts, militarizing the country , or making pacts with criminal networks. And it should matter whether candidates intend to raise revenues by taxing the wealthy or the poor, and by spending money on universities or elementary education. In this first step in the chain of representation, therefore, the campaigns gave voters incomplete information about the future policy consequences of their choice. This failure was not because the candidates lacked access to media; parties had unprecedented media access in 2012. Over the course of a threemonth campaign, more than forty million ads aired on radio and television, leading some to call 2012 the most media-centric campaign in Mexican history (Urrutia and Martínez 2012, 12). The candidates simply did not use this time to explain their policies in detail. Although some information was provided, in ads and through the two presidential debates, the candidates focused more on competence than policy substance. Second, voter alienation found expression in an Internet movement, organized through social media, which opposed the leading candidate and eventual winner as well as the traditional mass media (especially the main television network, Televisa) but refused to endorse any other candidate, propose an alternative political agenda, or support any specific set of policies to address the issues of the day. While the movement does help explain the narrowness of the winner’s margin of victory, the surge of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) to...


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MARC Record
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