The Mexican Lefts Pick a Candidate

As this is written, Mexico’s electoral lefts are anxiously awaiting the results of two public opinion polls that will determine the identity of their presidential candidate in next summer’s national election. The polls are meant to measure the relative strengths of the left’s two declared presidential candidates: 2006 presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Mexico City’s current mayor, Marcelo Ebrard.
Fred Rosen 11/14/2011

557 Marcelo Ebrard and Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Photo: ARCH)

As this is written, Mexico’s electoral lefts are anxiously awaiting the results of two public opinion polls that will—hopefully, peacefully—determine the identity of their presidential candidate in next summer’s national election. For electoral purposes, the Mexican “lefts” are the multiple factions (or “tribes”) of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the smaller Workers’ Party (PT), and the even smaller (though with some regional pockets of strength) Citizens’ Movement (until recently known as Convergence). Together, the three parties make up one of the three major alliances of the country’s current political landscape. The others are the corporatist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and its allies of the moment, and the conservative National Action Party (PAN).

The PRD-commissioned polls, which are being carried out by two independent polling agencies, are meant to measure the relative strengths, both within leftist party identification, and within the voting public as a whole, of the (broadly speaking) left’s two declared presidential candidates, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), the former mayor of Mexico City who was defeated in the disputed—perhaps fraudulent—2006 presidential election by the PAN’s Felipe Calderón, and Mexico City’s current mayor, Marcelo Ebrard.

While AMLO and Ebrard are both self-identified leftists, seemingly undivided by any major programmatic or ideological stands, and while they even go out of their way to say nice things about one another, AMLO has cultivated a more militant image than Ebrard, and his public discourses have a much sharper edge. Since the disputed 2006 election, AMLO has refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Calderón government, referring to it as the “spurious” presidency, while referring to himself as the legitimate president of Mexico. He has harshly criticized members of his own party who have attempted to work with—and cut deals with—Calderón’s conservative PAN.

Ebrard, on the other hand, has taken a more conciliatory attitude toward his opponents (both within and outside the PRD) and has even suggested that the next president of Mexico, who, given the realities of an election with three major candidates, will almost certainly be elected with less than 40% of the vote, rule in some kind of coalition with one or both of the parties of the center and center-right.

While AMLO and Ebrard seem to like and respect one another, the same cordiality does not hold within the PRD as a whole. The tribes have divided into two major factions, an ideologically driven faction that, for the most part, supports AMLO, and a more traditional deal-cutting, power-oriented faction that tends to back Ebrard. The two factions have had a number of ugly internal disputes—some involving charges of fraud in internal elections—but have agreed to honor the candidates’ pledge to support the strongest candidate as identified by the two polls, knowing that cooperation will give the left its only chance to govern.

AMLO and Ebrard have agreed on the two polling agencies—one called Covarrubias and Associates; the other called Nodos—and have also agreed on the methodology of the polling, which they haven’t shared with members of the three parties they hope will support them. While all the major players, apparently confident of victory, have agreed to support the single candidate declared by the pollsters to be the strongest, it remains to be seen whether, and how happily, they will fall into line.

The polling lists have been drawn, the interviewing has begun, and we should know the results within the coming week. The results known, we will have more to say about the polling and the politics of the process in next week’s blog.


For more from Fred Rosen's blog, "Mexico, Bewildered and Contested," visit See also the May/June 2011 NACLA Report "Mexico's Drug Crisis," or NACLA blogs, Border Wars and Traffick Jam, for more on the U.S.-Mexico border or drug trafficking in the region.


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