Nieto leads the table ahead of Mexico presidential polls
MEXICO CITY IF he does not stumble in the next six weeks, Enrique Pena Nieto appears to be coasting to victory in Mexico’s presidential elections on July 1
In a campaign criticised for a lack of true discussion on issues such as rampant drug violence or rising poverty, Pena Nieto, who is married to a soap star, is the most attractive personality on offer.
After more than a month of official campaigning, the 45- year-old former governor of the central state of Mexico is up to 20 points ahead of his closest rivals in the latest opinion polls.
His centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) — a powerful machine which governed Mexico for most of the 20th century — is already eyeing a comeback.
“Many people seem to feel like the outcome is already determined in this election.
That may not be true in reality but the PRI has succeeded in creating the impression that they will be the inevitable victors,” said Andrew Selee, senior advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute in Washington DC.
After several speaking gaffes and a reputation for avoiding unscripted performances, Pena Nieto appeared to overcome his toughest hurdle yet in the first of two carefully-controlled presidential debates this month.
He fended off attacks on his record as governor and his party’s alleged corrupt ties from his two main rivals: Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) and leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD).
Vazquez Mota, a 51-year-old former education minister, has so far failed to convince of her potential for change after 12 years of conservative PAN governments.
Her party, lauded for beating out the notoriously corrupt PRI in 2000 after 71 years in power, is also campaigning in the shadow of a relentless drug war.
More than 50,000 deaths are blamed on a rise in drug violence since President Felipe Calderon sent tens of thousands troops onto the streets to take on organized crime five and a half years ago.
Vazquez Mota also suffered a series of initial campaign mishaps, including a highlypublicized dizzy spell.
Leftist Lopez Obrador, who is currently battling Vazquez Mota for second place, has struggled to hit the right note despite toning down his confrontational image.
The 58-year-old champion of the poor lost many middle class followers with an unsuccessful campaign to prove he won the knife-edge 2006 presidential election, including weeks of mass blockades of the capital’s main avenue.
Lopez Obrador now courts business leaders but also pledges to break up Mexico’s “monopolies” and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to benefit Mexican farmers.
He says that the PAN and the PRI resemble each other and are puppets of a wealthy elite.
On the key issue of drug violence, both leading candidates say they will keep troops on the streets as long as needed while boosting the police — a similar promise to that made by Calderon.