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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mexico’s 2012 Elections

Clare Ribando Seelke
Specialist in Latin American Affairs

U.S. policy makers have closely followed the 2012 elections in Mexico, a key ally with whom the United States shares a nearly 2,000-mile border and some $450 billion in annual bilateral trade. On July 1, 2012, Mexico held federal (presidential and legislative) elections and state elections in 14 states, including six gubernatorial elections and an election for the mayor of the Federal District. Turnout reached record levels as 63% of eligible voters cast their ballots. Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) conducted the elections with the oversight of the Federal Electoral Tribunal, which must officially certify the results by September 6, 2012. While some domestic election observers assert that vote-buying and other irregularities marred the electoral process, the head of the electoral mission from the Organization of American States generally praised IFE’s handling of the elections.

As predicted, the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that governed Mexico from 1929 to 2000 retook the presidency after 12 years of rule by the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and won a plurality in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. PRI/Green Ecological Party (PVEM) candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, a former governor of the state of Mexico, won the presidential election, albeit by a smaller margin than polls had forecast. Peña Nieto captured 38.2% of the vote, followed by Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the leftist coalition led by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) with 31.6%, Josefina Vázquez Mota of the PAN with 25.4%, and Gabriel Quadri of the National Alliance Party (PANAL) with 2.3%. The relatively narrow margin of Peña Nieto’s victory, coupled with the fact that López Obrador has challenged the election results before the Electoral Tribunal, could complicate the transition period. And, while PAN President Felipe Calderón has pledged to work with the incoming administration, his party has joined the PRD in calling on judicial authorities to investigate whether the PRI used any illicit finances to fund Peña Nieto’s campaign. Enrique Peña Nieto is expected to take office for a six-year term on December 1, 2012.

Polls predicted that the PRI might also capture a simple majority in one or both chambers of the Mexican Congress, a feat not accomplished since 1994. Since seat allocations are determined by a complex formula that involves proportional representation, the Electoral Tribunal has not confirmed the final composition of the congress. Nevertheless, the PRI and the allied PVEM party are projected to have fallen short of capturing a simple majority in either house. As a result, the PRI will have to form cross-party coalitions in order to pass key reforms, particularly those requiring constitutional amendments. The PRI will most likely find support from the PANAL or the PAN, which lost seats in the Chamber but retained a powerful bargaining position. The PRDled coalition, which will now have more seats in the Chamber than the PAN and remains the third largest force in the Senate, could complicate some reform efforts, including those aimed at increasing private participation in the energy sector.

This report provides an overview of the parties and candidates who competed in the Mexican federal elections with a focus on the presidential contest, recaps the election results, and discusses some potential implications of the elections for U.S.-Mexican security cooperation, North American economic integration, and U.S. energy security.

Date of Report: July 19, 2012
Number of Pages: 19
Order Number: R42548
Price: $29.95

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