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Left eyes Jalisco’s top political prize

February 10, 2012

Reinvigorating the stagnant left-wing in Jalisco, Tlajomulco Mayor Enrique Alfaro Ramirez has been chosen to lead a three-party coalition in the gubernatorial election on July 1.

Alfaro outperformed his main rival, Raul Vargas Lopez, in two public surveys to determine who should represent a coalition of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the Labor Party (PT) and the Citizen’s Movement (formerly known as Convergencia).

Full results of the surveys conducted in late January will remain secret out of respect for the loser, Vargas, a state congressman and well-known doctor. The two companies behind the polls were the same used last year to determine the presidential candidate for the leftist alliance. Each survey consisted of five questions, with Alfaro scoring better in all of them.

“Today begins the process of building a new political history in our state,” declared Alfaro, upon winning the nomination last week. He also vowed to bring the state “out of mediocrity” should he become governor.

“Enrique Alfaro is a great candidate,” said Dolores Padierna, secretary general of the PRD. “This is the first time in the political history of the party that it has the conditions for success in Jalisco.”

The PRD generally struggles to pick up more than eight percent of the vote in Jalisco. In recent years the state has been considered a National Action Party (PAN) stronghold, but now the resurgent Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is favorite to win the governorship under the candidacy of former Guadalajara Mayor, Jorge Aristoteles Sandoval Diaz.

Recent opinion polls survey by Spanish-language daily Mural show Sandoval is recognized by 64 percent of those old enough to vote in Jalisco and that 50 percent have a positive impression of him. Alfaro is the second most popular candidate; recognized by 52 percent of eligible voters, and liked by 43 percent.

“We are above the PAN, we are doing well and this is further proof that we will fight hard,” Alfaro said, in reference to the survey.

“I welcome you to a race that for my part will be an opportunity to compare ideas and proposals, political civility and high-mindedness,” said Sandoval, after Alfaro’s nomination. The priista called for a “fair fight,” not a “dirty war,” while PAN candidate Fernando Guzman Perez Pelaez simply said “welcome to the fray.”

The alliance in Jalisco was confirmed after hours of negotiations on February 1, with “90 percent” agreement among the three leftist parties, according to Manuel Camacho Solis, coordinator of the coalition. It mirrors the national alliance led by presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the coalition agreement must now be formally signed in Mexico City before February 14.

The agreement will restore a sense of unity to the Jalisco left, which was fractured last year when Alfaro resigned from the PRD, along with three other Jalisco mayors, to join the Citizen’s Alliance, an independent leftist group (not an official political party) headed by Lopez Obrador. They quit the PRD in protest at the in-fighting and lack of transparency in Mexico’s major political parties.

Since being elected mayor of Tlajomulco, Guadalajara’s fastest growing suburb, in 2009, Alfaro has waged a non-stop war of words with Raul Padilla, the former rector of the Universidad de Guadalajara and a highly influential figure within the Jalisco PRD.

While national accords insist that state parties must elect their leaders through consultation with members, Alfaro argued this process has always been carried out behind closed doors, with Padilla acting as kingmaker. He left the party after the PRD’s national committee failed to act on repeated calls to bring the Jalisco leadership in line.

Alfaro’s nomination will have come as an unpleasant surprise to Padilla, but as the only leftist mayor of a metro-area municipality in Jalisco, he has become a popular figure with strong name recognition. He also gained credibility by taking on the operators of the Guadalajara Airport over their refusal to pay municipal taxes to Tlajomulco, as well as  starting programs to provide across-the-board financial assistance to help students to purchase supplies and ensure they enter school.

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