With only a lit­tle cash, young Mex­i­can shakes up pol­i­tics


With just a few thou­sand dol­lars and an In­ter­net- pow­ered grass­roots cam­paign, a 25-yearold Mex­i­can of Ja­panese an­ces­try tapped into dis­con­tent with cor­rup­tion-plagued po­lit­i­cal par­ties to make his­tory in midterm elec­tions.

Pe­dro Ku­mamoto, nick­named “Kuma,” is among a hand­ful of in­de­pen­dents who were elected in Sun­day’s vote, the first that al­lowed can­di­dates with­out par­ties to run for of­fice since a 2014 re­form.

With a US$14,000 war chest fi­nanced with small dona­tions he limited to no more than US$450, Ku­mamoto brushed aside ri­vals from well-fi­nanced and en­trenched po­lit­i­cal par­ties to win a seat in the Jalisco state leg­is­la­ture in west­ern Mex­ico.

His sup­port­ers also of­fered sun­screen, wa­ter bot­tles and ap­ples for the gru­el­ing door-to-door cam­paign in his home­town of Zapopan, a sub­urb of Guadala­jara, Mex­ico’s sec­ond big­gest city.

“It’s not about me. It’s not a can­di­dacy based on per­son­al­ity,” the broad-smil­ing Ku­mamoto, who fa­vors ca­sual clothes such as jeans and un­tucked shirts, told AFP in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

“It’s a can­di­dacy that hap­pened through so­cial move­ments re­lated to out­rage with tra­di­tional pol­i­tics, with po­lit­i­cal par­ties that haven’t worked cor­rectly,” said Ku­mamoto, who won 39 per­cent of the vote.

A Mex­i­can Mini-revo­lu­tion




other in­de­pen- dents won in the elec­tions for the 500-mem­ber lower cham­ber of Congress, hun­dreds of state leg­is­la­tures and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, and nine gov­er­nor­ships.

Their vic­to­ries were seen as a protest vote against the coun­try’s old par­ties in a coun­try where a re­cent poll showed that 91 per­cent of peo­ple be­lieve politi­cians are crooked.

The big­gest star of this Mex­i­can mini-revo­lu­tion was Jaime “El Bronco” Ro­driguez, who be­came the first in­de­pen­dent to win a gov­er­nor­ship in the industrial north­ern state of Nuevo Leon.

An­other prom­i­nent in­de­pen­dent, Manuel Clouthier, who won a fed­eral Congress seat in Si­naloa, was once a mem­ber of the Na­tional Ac­tion Party and his fa­ther ran for pres­i­dent un­der the same ban­ner.

But what sets Ku­mamoto apart from the other in­de­pen­dents is that he was never a mem­ber of a po­lit­i­cal party. An­a­lysts say his sur­pris­ing victory could be a model for as­pir­ing in­de­pen­dents.

For po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Jose An­to­nio Cre­spo, Ku­mamoto’s victory is “much more sig­nif­i­cant” than that of Ro­driguez or Clouthier.

“It’s sur­pris­ing how he was able to de­feat the par­ties with few re­sources and with­out pre­vi­ous po­lit­i­cal sup­port,” said Cre­spo of the Eco­nomics Re­search and Teach­ing Cen­ter. “Many will study the Ku­mamoto case to try to re­pro­duce it.”

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