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Mexico’s political campaigns revving up

January 9, 2012

It is not just campaign season north of the border. Prepare for an onslaught of television and radio spots over the next six months as Mexico’s political machinery gears into action.

In accordance with new electoral rules approved in the reforms of 2007 and 2008, the official campaigning dates for this year’s presidential election have been set, along with several key dates in the local state elections.

The “pre-campaigns,” or primaries, are already underway and run through to February 15, by which time all parties should have chosen candidates for all positions, from mayor to president of the Republic. Throughout this period over 13 million spots will be aired to promote political parties, and the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE).

The official campaign period – halved under the new laws from 186 to 90 days – takes place from March 30 until June 27, before Mexicans go to the polls on July 1. Across the country 17 state governorships are up for renewal, including in Jalisco, where voters will also elect two senators and 125 state legislators.

The National Action Party (PAN) currently holds 63 municipal councils in Jalisco; the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has 45 and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) just nine.

The PRI is looking to reclaim the state governorship, which the PAN has held for 18 years through three subsequent administrations. The PRI selected Guadalajara Mayor Arisoteles Sandoval as its candidate on January 5 in a behind-closed doors meeting, while the PAN candidate will be selected in a vote open to the public on February 5.

Campaign laws restrict the level of campaigning and advertising that local and national candidates are allowed to engage in ahead of the election. However, given that two of Mexico’s three major parties have already nominated a presidential candidate, it seems they will effectively be able to begin campaigning early, during the primary stage, without violating electoral law.

The PRI has selected Enrique Peña Nieto as its candidate, while Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador won a poll to claim the nomination of the leftist PRD. The incumbent PAN has yet to decide upon a candidate, although Josefina Vazquez Mota currently leads the polls.

The IFE recently stated it will not act unless specific complaints of overt campaigning are made against any of the candidates ahead of the official campaign season. Dismissing a complaint filed last week by the PAN for alleged early campaigning, Peña Nieto maintained that his party has respected campaign laws.

“The recent agreement of the IFE reaffirms the right to hold encounters with supporters behind closed doors,” he said. “The PRI wants to be a scrupulous observer of the electoral legislation.”

In the presidential race, each candidate is restricted to an expenditure of just over 167 million pesos for 60 days of campaigning, an average of 2.77 million pesos per day. In total, including promotion for other positions, political parties can spend over 300 million pesos during the campaign season.

Due to the recent electoral reforms, political parties no longer have to pay for media spots from the budget allocated to them annually. Instead the IFE designates the distribution of television and radio spots, as well as closely monitoring the fairness of media coverage.

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