Mexicans express anger through ballots
An independent is on track for a historic win in one state. Violence is reported elsewhere.
MEXICO CITY — Amid torched ballot boxes and deep public anger, Mexicans voted Sunday for governors, members of Congress and other officials in midterm elections expected to hand more power to the ruling party despite widespread discontent.
But for the first time in modern Mexican history, a candidate not affiliated with a political party stood a chance of winning. Jaime “El Bronco” Rodriguez was running for governor in the wealthy border state of Nuevo Leon thanks to new election rules that allow independent candidacies.
Two exit polls gave him the victory. If that holds true, voters will have sent a clear message on the status quo, saying that no party satisfies the public’s demands, analysts said.
“I am coming to vote with the hopes of a major change, although I know what I’m asking for is a miracle,” said dentist Jesus Torres, 42, in Mexico City.
“Why vote?” said Jorge Morales, a Mexico City resident who despite his attitude was going to cast a ballot. “They are all the same. So many parties. Not much choice.”
Gloria Perez Bonilla, a 20-year-old student, said she planned to invalidate her ballot in protest.
“It is a shame to have to vote without emotion, without passion for a party,” she said. “I will annul my vote to tell the politicians that we are tired of them.”
Perez was part of amovement to boycott or invalidate ballots cast in the elections, which will choose nine governors, 16 state legislatures, 500 members of the federal Congress and 887 mayors.
Several voters said they had been given money or gifts to vote for one party or another.
In the southern, largely indigenous state of Oaxaca, tension was so high that international election monitors decided to not show up. Incidents that included the burning of ballot boxes and blocking of entryways to polling stations were reported in Oaxaca, Guerrero and Michoacan states, home to about 8.3 million voters.
In one Guerrero city, Tixtla, the election was canceled because of attacks on voting booths. Protesters included a radical teachers union and supporters of 43 college students kidnapped and apparently killed last year by drug traffickers working with local officials.
Later, election officials said the vote in Tixtla had resumed after residents armed with sticks insisted on voting.
President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party stands to gain the most, according to preelection polls. After casting his ballot Sunday, Peña Nieto said violence was limited to isolated incidents.
The president’s approval ratings have tanked, in part because of a sluggish economy, corruption scandals, flagging reforms and several suspicious mass killings attributed to authorities, including the 43 college students.
However, abstention and voided ballots, though a potent symbol of public protest, in the end will only help the PRI and other well-organized groups, which will always turn out core voters at the polls.
“The elections are not a plebiscite on the Peña Nieto government,” writer Jorge Zepeda Patterson said on the Sin Embargo news website. “The president’s party has not done well, but the opposition has done the same or worse.”
Lorenzo Cordova, president of the National Electoral Institute, which organizes elections, said only a tiny percentage of voting stations could not open Sunday. Cordova recently came under intense criticism when he was secretly recorded making fun of indigenous leaders.
“Our system is working correctly,” Cordova said in a national address.
PRESIDENT Enrique Peña Nieto after voting in Mexico City. His party is expected to gain power.