While it might take days or even weeks before Mexico’s cliff-hanger presidential election is officially settled, it seems almost certain that right-of-center, liberal candidate Felipe Calderón will be the country’s next president. He may not have won by more than a percentage point and his 36% of the vote is hardly a mandate. His opponents will challenge the results in the streets, the courts and the political arena, and he will face a strong, though divided, opposition in Congress. Still, winning is better than losing, and Mexico is better off today than it was yesterday, when many thought the left-of-center populist contender, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, would receive a thumping endorsement from the electorate.
Calderón means continuity; that’s probably why he won, and that is what Mexico needs.
In the end, Mexico’s voters did not fall for López Obrador’s stratagem. His case was simple: Mexico is a basket case today, let’s throw out the rascals responsible for it and replace them with leaders who will represent and help the poor – still half of Mexico’s population.
Regardless of the fact that this description is largely, though not entirely, inaccurate, the voters decided that the last people they wanted to fix the mess were … those who created it in the first place. López Obrador surrounded himself with former high-level officials of the Echeverría (1970-1976), López Portillo (1976-1982), De la Madrid (1982-1988), and Salinas de Gortari administrations. It simply didn’t fly with the electorate.