October 28, 2005

Border Round-up/Political News

Felipe’s the PAN’s Man

The battle for the presidential nomination of Mexican President Vicente Fox’s National Action Party (PAN) is over. In the third round of primary voting on Sunday, October 23, partisans of the center-right party chose former Fox cabinet official Felipe Calderon as their presidential standard-bearer for 2006. Winning about 58 percent of the vote, Calderon trounced rivals Santiago Creel and Alberto Cardenas, whose “dark horse” campaign failed to rally. One-time favorite Creel chalked up only about 24 percent of the vote, while Cardenas came in just shy of 18 percent of the ballots.

In Sunday’s election, Panistas in Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila and 10 other states gave Calderon his overwhelming win. Pre-election disputes between the candidates were quickly and publicly glossed over, with both Creel and Cardenas closing ranks behind their party’s new presidential candidate.

In his victory address, Calderon expressed solidarity with the victims of Hurricane Wilma. Giving an indication of the tone the 2006 race could acquire, the presidential

nominee also tossed some initial barbs at his 2006 opponents, Calderon vowed not to turn back the clock and allow “the demagoguery of the PRD and a return to the corruption and impunity of the PRI.” Several prominent Fox administration officials were present at the victory celebration, including Economy Minister Fernando Canales, DIF Director Teresa Aranda and National Women’s Institute Director Patricia Espinosa. Calderon will be formally sworn in as the PAN’s 2006 presidential candidate on November 20, the Mexican Revolution Day holiday.

A native of Michoacan, Calderon boasts a long history with the PAN. Identified with the PAN’s traditional ideological wing, he has been a PAN national president and a member of the Mexican Congress. A former director of the Banobras financial institution, Calderon later served as energy secretary during the Fox administration. He left the post after a public fallout with the president developed over Calderon’s proclamation in May 2004 that he intended to seek the presidency.

About 384,000 PAN militants were registered to vote in last Sunday’s contest, including almost 900 who live abroad. Preliminary results showed that only a minority voted, perhaps either signaling fatigue with the drawn-out primary process or a lack of enthusiasm within the PAN for the standing candidates. The voter turn-out prompted some media outlets to question Calderon’s overall prospects for 2006.

Polls showing PRD presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the head of the pack in traditional PAN bases like Ciudad Juarez or San Luis Rio Colorado indicate the conservative party might not be able to depend on its historic strongholds in the border region during the 2006 election.

On primary day, a strange incident was reported at the PAN headquarters in Ciudad Juarez. A young man with the physical appearance of a soldier was detained by municipal police after Panistas grew suspicious about the individual’s presence in their offices. Fielding questions about the election process, the young man identified himself as a reporter from the Ciudad Juarez daily Norte but failed to produce journalist credentials. The Ciudad Juarez incident could be an early manifestation of the political spying likely to unfold during the 2006 campaign.

Reprinted from Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico.

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