Amidst unprecedented levels of violence, Mexicans will go to the polls on Sunday to elect their next president.
With more than 26,000 murders last year — the highest number ever recorded by the government — 2018 is poised to be even worse.
The electoral process itself has been affected by looming violence, with more than 122 candidates murdered since September last year.
Despite the violence epidemic, Mexican politics is also going through an unusual electoral period. No political party is going at it all alone; all parties have formed alliances.
Who are the main candidates?
The biggest political alliances have formed around two main axes: reducing the high levels of abstentionism and mitigating the loss of voter prestige that’s occurred in recent years, political expert Carlos Castillo told Euronews.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador
'Juntos Haremos Historia' (Together we will make history) is the left-wing political alliance that’s on top of the polls. It’s leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador looks over the union between the parties of National Regeneration Movement (Morena), the Labor Party (PT), and the Social Encounter Party (PES), which is the one with the most supporters so far.
The diversity in political parties makes very different people work together, “a strategy that’s worked very well,” said Castillo.
Within Mexican politics, Lopez Obrador is known for his hard line against the country’s elite, who’ve accused him of being populist and bringing dangerous ideas into the country.
However, the leftist candidate has softened his critic of the elite class as the alliance’s popularity has increased — “this has brought a lot of sympathy (for him),” said Castillo.
Even if Lopez Obrador presents himself as the candidate battling the traditional political class, he’s no stranger to elections. “This is his third candidacy for the presidency, which has allowed him to stay on top of the two most important left-wing parties in the country,” Costa Rican journalist in Mexico Jovel Eduardo Álvarez Solís told Euronews.
José Antonio Meade
Meade is the official candidate for the centre-right coalition ‘Todos por Mexico’ (All for Mexico) — which is made up of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Mexico’s Green Party (PVEM) and New Alliance Party (PANAL).
“Technically, he is the most solid of all the candidates,” said Castillo.
However, the fact that he’s held various posts during the Peña Nieto government has tarnished his reputation in the latest polls.
“He’s carrying with him the corruption charges that have tainted the current government,” said Castillo.
Anaya, who’s second in the polls, is the candidate of the centrist coalition ‘Por Mexico al Frente’ (For Mexico in Front) that’s comprised of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Citizen’s Movement (MC) and National Action Party (PAN). The 40-year-old has an extensive political career as MP and president of PAN.
What are the biggest challenges for the next Mexican government?
• Fighting corruption and impunity
With corruption scandals a predominant theme in Peña Nieto’s government, only 5% of Mexicans believe that justice is served on criminals, according to Mexico’s 2017 peace index.
According to Castillo, that impunity should be one of the major problems the next government tackles. “It is wearing down the entire political class, without distinguishing between parties,” he said.
• Decreasing violence levels
More than 90 people per day are murdered in Mexico. Etellekt, a risk analysis and crisis management consulting group in Mexico City, says that violence increased 385% since the 2015 electoral campaign. Additionally, the majority of the political candidates murdered this electoral year were in local elections because of drug gangs trying to control them.
“In a way, narco groups are also trying to defend their territory by maintaining the corruption that allows them to continue with their illicit activities,” said Castillo.
Violent groups also intimidate the electorate since some voters are scared to support certain candidates.
According to Castillo, none of the candidates has a well-defined plan to fight the drug lords' power.
“Some say ‘we must pardon them’ and other say ‘we must punish them’ but no one tells you how to do one or the other.”
- Reviewing the political system
The lack of a second round makes it more difficult for Mexicans to choose which side to vote for. Additionally, there’s no monitoring body to make sure parties are adhering to guidelines for choosing candidates.
• Mexican-American foreign relations
All candidates agree on rejecting US President Donald Trump’s wall proposal at the US-Mexico border and his trade politics.
“Trump will have to learn to respect us,” said Lopez Obrador, who wants to strengthen the Mexican economy to counter emigration.
“Each time he insults us, his life and dignity are in danger,” said Meade. “In my government, we won’t allow any agreement that doesn’t respect us.”
Peña Nieto has been heavily criticised for lack of assertiveness against the multiple insults from Trump.
What will influence the vote?
• The young adult vote
Around 15 million people between 18 and 23 years of age will vote for the first time this Sunday and about 40 million more are young adults — accounting for around 40% of the electorate.
Álvarez explains that some of the topics that most concern the Mexican youth are violence and corruption.
The young adult vote will go to the candidate who can produce a fresh and innovative solution to these two problems.
• Electoral fraud
Despite Mexico’s investment to fight against electoral fraud, analysts consulted by Bloomberg say that the threat of a cyberattack is high since the Mexican electoral system is “very vulnerable”.
- The situation in Venezuela
The shadow of the crisis in Venezuela looms over the Lopez Obrador like it already did for the left-wing candidate during the Colombian elections last month. Castillo says that some of the Mexican candidate's critics have compared his politics to the ones pushed by Chavez in his early days. However, his political opponents have not managed to cause serious harm in that regard.