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.”