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Presidential frontrunner snubs student debate

June 23, 2012

With just over a week to go before the July 1 elections, three of Mexico’s four presidential candidates took part in a debate organized by the #YoSoy132 student movement on Tuesday night.

Broadcast online and over the radio from Mexico City, the unprecedented #Debate132 was beset by technical problems but represented a triumph for democracy. Striking back at what they consider mainstream media manipulation, the organizers briefly subverted the domination of Mexico’s electoral politics by media giants such as Televisa and TV Azteca.

Josefina Vazquez Mota of the National Action Party (PAN), Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and Gabriel Quadri of the New Alliance Party (PANAL) participated in the debate, with frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) conspicuous by his absence.

An empty seat was laid out to highlight the fact that Peña Nieto, who had little to gain from taking part, had declined to join the debate. With the organizers having “adopted a political position against myself and my policies,” the PRI candidate argued that they could not guarantee conditions for a neutral debate to take place.

The debate is unlikely to have a major impact on the election, which at this stage seems Peña Nieto’s to lose. The frontrunner may have lost some votes for refusing to take part, but, more importantly, in doing so he avoided the potential for any major slipups.

Peña Nieto maintains a 15.7 point lead in the polls, according to a survey released by Mitofsky on Tuesday. Among decided voters, Peña Nieto has 44.4 percent of support, Lopez Obrador has 28.7 percent and Vazquez Mota trails with 24.6 percent.

Although Lopez Obrador has cited surveys in which he leads the pack and Vazquez Mota has claimed to be just points behind Peña Nieto, Mitofsky is considered one of the more trustworthy pollsters.

Mitofsky also conducted a definitive poll of polls on Tuesday, taking an average of results from the most recent surveys by Milenio, El Universal, Excelsior, Reforma and El Sol de Mexico, alongside its own findings. The results put Peña Nieto on 43.5 percent, Lopez Obrador on 28 percent and Vazquez Mota on 25.4 percent.

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