August 25, 2000
By Enrique Davis-Mazlum
Chiapas, Mexico - Once more the eyes of the world were on Chiapas, Mexico. Chiapas has been a topic of discussion since January 1st, 1994 when the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) rose in arms against the Mexican Government and the Mexican Army. Since that day Chiapas has been in political, economic and social instability. With a population of approximate 4,056,000 and 118 Municipios (Municipal Districts) Chiapas is one of the richest states in Mexico in natural resources and at the same time one of the poorest (highest percentage of poverty among all the states).
One of the most apparent signs of political instability in Chiapas can be identified in the leadership of the State; Chiapas was part of Guatemala until 1824 when it became part of Mexico. Since 1824 it has had 166 Governors: 34 were elected, 100 have been Interim Governors, seven Substitute Governors, 18 Temporary Governors, and seven in charge of the offices of the Governor - an average of one per year.
During the Presidential Elections on July 2nd there was over 50 percent of abstinence during the elections. The PRI (Institutionalized Revolutionary Party) obtained 42.59 percent of the votes for President; it won the two Senate seats and 11 out of 12 seats in Congress. Based on this scenario a coalition named Alianza por Chiapas (Alliance for Chiapas) was formed between PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution), PAN (National Action Party), PT (Labour Party), PVEM (Green Ecological Party of Mexico), PCD (Central Democratic Party), PSN (Nationalist Society Party), PAS (Social Alliance Party) and Convergencia (Convergence for Democracy Party) having Senator Pablo Salazar Mendiguchia as their candidate which defeated Senator Sami David David of the PRI. Even with this scenario many believed that what is now known as Efecto Fox (The Fox Effect) could reach Chiapas.
What was interesting during this race is that Senator Pablo Salazar and Senator Sami David David ran together in 1994 for the Senate seats of Chiapas, both representing the PRI. Salazar and David while in office formed a group of priista Senators that they named Grupo Galileo. This group was well known for their efforts of democratization inside the PRI and in the Senate. Grupo Galileo in several occasions criticized President Ernesto Zedillo and discussed issues that had never been discussed without the Presidents consent. One of the issues that they addressed was the political, economic and social instability in Chiapas.
The election in Chiapas for Governor was not between different parties, but between two Senators: Sami David David who had the endorsement of the PRI and Pablo Salazar Mendiguchia who had the endorsement of Alliance for Chiapas. What the eight different parties that formed an alliance were looking for was stability and legitimacy in Chiapas. In their eyes Pablo Salazar a former priistas is the most qualified person to negotiate with the Federal Government once President Elect Vicente Fox takes office on December 1st 2000 and one who can also negotiate with the EZLN.
There was great skepticism in Chiapas and many believed that electoral fraud could take place _in the rural areas- during these elections. The Consejo Estatal Electoral de Chiapas _ CEEC (State Electoral Counsel of Chiapas) taking into consideration that there was a possibility of electoral fraud allowed 4,515 national observers and 85 international observers to oversee the electoral process. The CEEC invited Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Nobel Peace Prize in 1992) as an observer during the electoral process of August 20th. Menchu mentioned that it was great to see that the elections took place in order and with no major problems.
During the evening of August 20th the streets in Chiapas were empty; people went back to their homes and waited for the official results that would be transmitted by the CEEC. After 50 percent of the voting polls were counted the CEEC announced that Senator Pablo Salazar Mendiguchia was leading with 51.42 percent of the votes and Sami David David had 44.74 percent. This announcement officially named Senator Pablo Salazar Mendiguchia as the Virtual Governor in Chiapas.
Now that the elections are over and Senator Pablo Salazar will be the next Governor of Chiapas -legitimately elected by the Chiapanecos. And the only way that political, economic and social stability will start is if a healing process starts immediately between the PRI and the rest of the parties that were part of this electoral process.
Enrique Davis-Mazlum, attends ITAM in Mexico City, studying for his Masters in Public Policy. www.loscandidatos.com