Bloomberg News

Mexico’s Ruling Party Plays on Corruption Fears in Race

April 17, 2012

Mexico’s ruling party candidate is stepping up attacks on the presidential front-runner to play on fears of corruption within the once-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Trailing in the polls, Josefina Vazquez Mota of the National Action Party suggested last week that the PRI, which held power for seven decades until 2000, colluded with drug traffickers. Her campaign has also called the party’s candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, a liar, saying he didn’t complete public works projects that he’d claimed credit for as a governor.

Vazquez Mota is treading a fine line between unmasking what she says are her opponent’s weaknesses and breaching a new election law against negative campaigning ahead of the July 1 vote. Pena Nieto says Vazquez Mota’s accusations hark back to campaigning in the last election in 2006, which ended with supporters of the losing candidate alleging fraud and blocking Mexico City’s main thoroughfare.

“Six years ago, Mexico saw itself divided by dirty campaigns that only achieved confrontation and rancor between Mexicans,” Pena Nieto said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “I am not going to divide Mexico.”

Ads by Vazquez Mota’s party in 2006 calling opposition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador a danger to Mexico helped erase the lead he held in early opinion polls. After losing the race by less than one percentage point, Lopez Obrador, who is running again this year, pushed to overhaul electoral laws to prohibit personal attacks.

‘Complicity’

Vazquez Mota’s campaign spots show leaking pipes and unfinished roads that her party claims are among dozens of projects Pena Nieto failed to complete while governor of Mexico state. Pena Nieto said he completed all 608 of his pledges.

The PRI filed a complaint with the electoral institute April 15 to halt airing of the ads, arguing that they distort the truth. The two parties have agreed to meet to investigate the allegations.

Vazquez Mota has also criticized the PRI’s record on tackling drugs gangs.

“Organized crime did not come on its own,” she said on April 13 at an event in the northern state of Tamaulipas, which is governed by the PRI and has been hit especially hard by the recent drug war. “There had to have been complicity or at least much complacency” from the authorities.

‘Doesn’t Deliver’

Vazquez Mota’s assertions at public events or on the Internet do not violate the new electoral law, while negative TV or radio ads may do so, according to Aldo Munoz, a political scientist at the Autonomous University of Mexico state.

The law “prevents the voter from receiving information about the negative aspects of the parties fighting for power,” Munoz said.

The PAN started a website over the weekend called “Pena Doesn’t Deliver” that reports on dozens of his supposedly incomplete public works projects.

Vazquez Mota had 21 percent support in a poll released April 16 by Grupo Economistas Asociados-ISA, up from 18 percent on April 11. She remains about 19 percentage points behind the front-runner, Pena Nieto, who had 40 percent support in the face-to-face survey of 1,148 people from April 14 to April 16. Lopez Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution was third with 14 percent support. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Former President Vicente Fox, who is from Vazquez Mota’s party, said last week that it would take a “small miracle” for her to win the July 1 vote.

The candidates will hold their first debate May 6.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at ncattan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net


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