Gubernatorial elections in Argentina and Mexico

While I was away on vacation, a series of important gubernatorial (state) elections were held in three Mexican states and Argentina’s federal capital of Buenos Aires. In Mexico, the states of Coahuila, México and Nayarit held elections for governor on July 3. In Argentina, the federal capital and independent city of Buenos Aires held elections for head of government (the local mayor or governor), half of the local legislature and elections to 15 new local councils called communes.

Mexico (July 3)

Three Mexican states elected new governors on July 3, including the all-powerful state of México which, as Mexico’s most populous state with over 15 million inhabitants, accounts for 13.5% of the country’s population. Coahuila and Nayarit (respectively 16th and 29th out of 32 in terms of population) weren’t as crucial.

Coahuila, Mexico’s third largest state by area, is a large sprawling state in northern Mexico bordering Texas. It is largely arid and poor. Politically, Coahuila remains largely priísta, having been the PRI’s strongest state in the 2009 midterms and having been ruled only by PRI governors. But like most of northern Mexico the PAN remains strong, its candidates having carried the state in the 2000 and 2006 elections.

México is relatively small in terms of area, but is the country’s most populous state. It surrounds the Federal District on three sides, and is geographically marked by a contrast between the flat Valley of Mexico (the heart of Aztec civilization) and the mountainous region south of the state capital of Toluca.  México is somewhat of a microcosm of Mexico, with heavy urbanization on the outskirts of Mexico, an old industrial base in Toluca and agriculture in rural areas. As such and thanks to its size, the state is something of a major prize in Mexican politics. The PRI has governed the state uninterrupted for countless decades, but the PAN won it in the 2000 presidential election and the PRD’s AMLO won it in the 2006 presidential election where the PRI placed third in the state. The state was all the more crucial this year as it is held by the outgoing governor Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI) who is to date the runaway favourite to become Mexico’s next president in 2012.

Nayarit is a small state with a small population on the Pacific coast of Mexico isolated by the rest of the country by the Sierra Madre Occidental. It is located just north of the tourist resort of Puerto Vallarta, whose place as a booming tourist and industrial centre has opened markets for Nayarit. Nayarit has been ruled by the PRI since 2005, when its candidate Ney González Sánchez narrowly defeated a PRD candidate seeking to succeed Antonio Echevarría Domínguez, a former priísta elected governor on the PRD banner in 1999. Likely due to Echevarría, the PRD has been strong in the state while the PAN has been very weak (only 19% for Calderon in 2006).

In Coahuila, the PRI nominated federal deputy Rubén Moreira Valdez and the PAN nominated senator Guillermo Anaya Llamas. The PT and Convergencia ran independently of the locally irrelevant PRD with former deputy Jesús González Schmal. In México, the PRI nominated Ecatepec de Morelos mayor Eruviel Ávila, the PAN nominated former party president Luis Felipe Bravo Mena. The PRD finally nominated Alejandro Encinas, the well-known former caretaker mayor of Mexico (between 2005 and 2006). The PAN and some factions of the PRD including Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard fumbled around in the quixotic hope to form an electoral alliance like those PAN-PRD tickets which had proved so fruitful in 2010 and even earlier this year in Guerrero. But Encinas is a close ally of the PRD’s defeated 2006 presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who lost the PRD’s leadership narrowly in 2008 to AMLO rival Jesús Ortega. Ortega’s faction, to which (2012 contender) Ebrard is increasingly close to, favours such PAN-PRD alliances but Encinas-AMLO’s minority faction opposes such alliances. Finally, in Nayarit, the PRI candidate was Tepic mayor Roberto Sandoval Castañeda, the PAN candidate was PRD federal deputy and Echevarría Domínguez’s ex-wife Martha Elena García. Yet the PRD also nominated a candidate, Guadalupe Acosta Naranjo.

The most significant aspect here was the absence of any PAN-PRD alliances like those which had triumphed in three big states in 2010 and earlier this year in Guerrero. Only a last-ditch PAN-PRD coalition was put up in some municipalities in Hidalgo (which held local elections), where a PAN-PRD alliance had narrowly lost the gubernatorial contest in 2010.

Here are the results for the three states:

Coahuila México Nayarit
PRI and allies 59.96% 62.52% 48.8%
PAN and allies 35.23% 12.38% 38.1%
PRD and allies 0.97% 21.17% 10.9%
PT-Convergencia 1.52% w/ PRD 0.9%
Votos nulos 2.32% 3.7% 0.2%
Others 0.23% 1.1%

The three elections were all major victories for the PRD which managed to comfortably hold all three states up for grabs (though it was the defending party in all three). The most significant of the three was of course Eruviel’s landslide win in the most important of them all (México) where he won a smashing 62.52% which is one of the PRI’s best result in any statewide election in a very long time. The PRD saved face in México where Encinas ran a good campaign, but the PAN did not save face at all in that state where it ended up getting hammered into a very poor third with only 12.4%. Nonetheless, the PAN put up a good fight in Coahuila and most significantly Nayarit whereas the PRD did badly in both of those states including Nayarit where it has had a base of strength since the late 90s. The PAN even managed to win one more municipality (10 out of 20) in municipal elections held simultaneously in Nayarit. The PAN-PRD alliances in Hidalgo’s local elections worked more or less well, allowing some modest PRI loses.

At any rate, Eruviel’s win cements Enrique Peña Nieto as the PRI’s candidate, which has basically united behind him. However, the PAN’s poor showing might hurt the chances of one of the three top PAN contenders, former education secretary Josefina Vázquez Mota who was touted as a PAN candidate in México state and is seen as supporting a PAN-PRD alliance. The other top two contenders are Santiago Creel, an unsuccessful candidate for the 2006 nomination (where he was the candidate of then-President Vicente Fox); and finance minister Ernesto Cordero who is apparently the president’s favourite.

Argentina (July 10)

The latest in a string of 22 Argentine provinces which are due to elect governors this year, the federal capital and autonomous city of Buenos Aires elected its head of government (aka, governor or mayor) on July 10 alongside 30 out of the local parliament’s 60 seats and local councils in 15 new communes each electing a council of seven members.

The Argentine capital with a population of nearly 2.9 million, Buenos Aires has long been the capital of the country’s affluent and educated intelligentsia. In the nineteenth century, Buenos Aires’ free-trading elitist liberals feuded with the authoritarian protectionist rural caudillos of the pampas. This dichotomy of sorts between the capital and the rest of the country has existed to this day, with important political repercussions. In a distant past, the city’s educated elites which included the likes of Domingo Sarmiento, railed against the barbarian gauchos and the authoritarian caudillos such as Juan Manuel de Rosas. In a less distant past, Buenos Aires’ educated affluent population disliked Peronism and in recent years has been a bastion of opposition to the Kirchner’s centre-left variant of Peronism (also styled Kircherism).

In 2007, Mauricio Macri, a wealthy businessman and former president of the country’s most popular football club, was elected head of government at the helm of Republican Proposal (PRO), the country’s main (openly) right-wing alliance which he co-founded in 2005. Macri, who had been narrowly defeated in 2003 by incumbent head of government and Kirchner ally Aníbal Ibarra (forced to resign in 2006), won 45.76% of the vote against 23.75% for Daniel Filmus, then-education minister and candidate of Kirchner’s FPV coalition. Incumbent Jorge Telerman, a centre-leftist who took office in 2006 won 20.68%. Macri crushed Filmus with 60.9% of the vote in the runoff at the end of June 2007. Macri has been popular as mayor, establishing a new local police force and enjoying local economic growth. He has also often feuded with President Fernández, widow of former President and towering political figure Nestor Kirchner. His right-wing supporters have always hoped that he harboured national political ambitions, but the cautious Macri dropped a doomed October 2011 presidential bid in May.

Instead of a quixotic presidential bid, Macri ran for reelection. He was opposed, again, by Daniel Filmus, now a senator. Endorsed by Kirchner and the FPV, Filmus attacked Macri for abuse of power (the police boss is investigated for phone tapping), delays in the construction of the subway, crime and poverty. Filmus was joined by Fernando ‘Pino’ Solanas, a left-wing filmmaker and the most prominent figure of the small local socialist Proyecto Sur party. Solanas was formerly allied to the Socialist Party of governor and presidential candidate Hermes Binner but that alliance has since been broken in most provinces though seemingly not (yet) in the city of Buenos Aires. Also-ran candidates included notably senator and Bolivian-born journalist María Eugenia Estenssoro from Elisa Carrió’s dwindling Civic Coalition (CC), federal deputy Silvana Giudici of the liberal UCR, former head of government Jorge Telerman, federal deputy Luis Zamora of the left-wing Autodetermination and Liberty and finally former finance minister and economist Ricardo López Murphy, a right-winger whose political career has been collapsing since his 2003 presidential bid where he won 16% (and winning overall in the city of Buenos Aires).

Results are:

Mauricio Macri (PRO) 47.08%
Daniel Filmus (PJ-FPV) 27.78%
Fernando Pino Solanas (Proyecto Sur) 12.82%
María Eugenia Estenssoro (CC) 3.32%
Silvana Giudici (UCR) 2.06%
Jorge Telerman (FPBA) 1.76%
Luis Zamora (AyL) 1.47%
Ricardo López Murphy (Autonomist Party) 1.41%
all others below 1%

Macri will need to wait until a runoff on July 31 before getting consecrated with a quasi-certain victory. Macri’s quasi-certain win is certainly a major success for him, but the FPV has reason to cheer as well. Daniel Filmus won a result considerably better than what he had garnered in 2007, and his result is in the high range of the FPV’s vote share in the city in recent years. Certain observers in 2007 thought that Macri’s win over Filmus that year was some sort of proof that “Argentina wasn’t so left-wing” and that Kirchner might not win that easily after all. I can’t help but think some fools will write the same thing this year. In reality, Macri’s win in Buenos Aires doesn’t indicate much aside from the fact that Buenos Aires remains markedly to the right of left-wing Kirchnerista Argentina. Buenos Aires has always been a right-wing city, at least in recent years, and is a poor indicator of the political mood of the entirety of Argentina. The only thing that it indicates is that Kirchner won’t win the city of Buenos Aires in October even if she wins big nationally, but we already knew that.

Macri did best in the wealthiest neighborhoods in the north of the city, notably Recoleta (comuna 2) where he won nearly 60% of the vote. Conversely, Filmus did best in the south of the city most notably in comuna 8, the city’s poorest district, where he took 38% to Macri’s 42%. Solanas did poorly both in the affluent north and poor south, doing best instead in the middle-class areas in the centre of the city.

City elections played out slightly differently, but not much. 30 out of 60 seats were up, the other having been elected in 2009 (PRO had won 11, Proyecto Sur 8, CC-UCR 6, FPV 4 and another slate won one).

Alianza PRO 44.96% winning 16 seats 
PJ-FPV 14.06% winning 5 seats
Proyecto Sur 12.89% winning 4 seats
Progressive and Popular Front (FPP) 6.64% winning 2 seats
New Encounter 6.48% winning 2 seats
CC 3.96% winning 1 seat
UCR 2.10%
FPBA 1.88%
AyL 1.53%
all others below 1.5%

The most significant aspect of the result is the FPV’s considerably poorer result, with only 14% of votes cast for the official FPV slate headed by Juan Cabandié, the boss of the virulent Kirchnerista youth. A lot of Filmus voters voted for two maverick Kirchnerista-lite slates, the FPP and New Encounter headed respectively by former mayor Ibarra and Gabriela Cerrutti. All in all, the PRO apparently picked up 2 seats, the FPV picked up one, the Proyecto Sur gained 3 while CC lost one. In communal council elections, PRO won 45.7% and 60 out of 105 seats, the FPV took 27.1% and 30 seats while Proyecto Sur won 15 seats and 13.7%. 15 communes composed of one or more barrios elected seven members to those new local councils, created to decentralize basic decision making in the city which is heavily centralized.

Some sort of larger and more detailed preview post for the presidential ballot including other gubernatorial elections in Argentina since January will be posted sometime in August or September.

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Posted on July 13, 2011, in Argentina, Mexico, Regional and local elections. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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