In just a little more than two months Mexicans will go to the polls to decide who runs the country for the next six years from Los Pinos.
Leading up to the election, presidential candidates will engage in a series of public debates which, while unlikely to sway voters who have already made up their minds, will at the very least provide some mildly diverting political burlesque.
The three main frontrunners are left-wing veteran politician Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, conservative lawyer Ricardo Anaya, and Jose Antonio Meade, economist and the representative of the historically dominant Partido Revolucionario Institutional (PRI). Trailing fourth and fifth are, respectively, independent Margarita Zavala, lawyer and wife of ex-president Felipe Calderon, and Jaime Rodriguez Calderon, former governor of Nuevo Leon and also an independent.
The first presidential debate is scheduled for Sunday, April 22, 8 p.m., at the Palacio de Mineria in Mexico City. Each debate covers a few distinct themes, with the inaugural exchange dedicated to public security, violence, corruption, impunity, democracy, and pluralism and the protection of vulnerable demographic sector.
During a visit last Tuesday to Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Lopez Obrador, with his characteristic flouting of political convention, purported to show his strategic cards ahead of time.
“I’m not going to let myself be baited by provocation,” said Obrador, who added that his opponents have been ceaselessly attacking him in the press, something he expects will continue during the debate.
“I have my ear to the ground, and the people are saying to me ‘be cool and calm,’ and that’s how I intend to be, because [the other candidates] will be coming at me with everything they’ve got.”
If election polls were infallible Lopez Obrador would have nothing to worry about - he is currently projected to win with a whopping 48 percent of the vote. Bu the Tabasco native has been here before, losing two elections to last-minute upsets in 2006 and 2012, the first to Felipe Calderon and the second to current federal mandatario and notorious lightweight, President Enrique Peña Nieto.
In a recent analysis, El Universal columnist Leon Krauze sized up each candidate as one would prized race horses or boxers, with Lopez Obrador the favorite due to his experience in two previous presidential debates and overall longevity of political experience. However, he noted that Lopez Obrador would be wise to “take a break from moral indignation and instead concentration on explaining in detail how he plans to govern the country.”
The subsequent two debates leading up to the election on Sunday, July 1 will be held on Sunday, May 20, 9:30 p.m., in Tijuana; and Tuesday, June 12, 8 p.m., in Merida. The debates will be aired on all Mexican free-to-air channels. Matt Fink