The Mexican Elections 2018: Towards the Second Democratic Transition – Latin American Elections Series

“The views represented in this opinion piece do not necessarily represent those of the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy”

Context and Stakeholders

Mexico, the second largest economy in Latin America, will go to the polls this Sunday to choose their president and a new Congress: 500 members for the Chamber of Deputies and 128 members of the Senate in the biggest elections the country has had so far. This event is especially important considering that at the moment, there is a widespread disappointment because of unchecked corruption and violence (with at least 200,000 lost lives since 2007 due to the war on drugs).


According to the 1917´s Mexican Constitution, the country is a federal democratic republic that works in the following way: 1) The president is elected for six years by a relative majority in a single round, presidential reelection is forbidden. 2) The Chamber of deputies is constituted by 500 members, where 300 are elected by plurality and the rest by proportional representation (their period  lasts three years and from 2021 reelection will be allowed for legislators), 3) The Senate is formed by 96 members who are elected by state constituencies, and each of the 32 states is represented by three Senators, two seats are allocated for the party that received the highest number of votes and one for the party that got second place, while the remaining 32 are elected by proportional representation in a single nationwide constituency.


The Congress and the president are elected separately and most of the decisions require 50% +1 in the Congress. Usually political parties have to dialogue in order to get the necessary votes but for these elections. It is important to note that the coalition “Together We’ll Make History” that encompasses the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), the Labor Party (PT) and the Social Encounter Party (PES) is expected to get from 236 to 298 seats in the Chamber of Deputies which means that they will be able to make all decisions unilaterally except for constitutional changes, which does not happen in Mexico since 1997.[1]


1 - Grafico

[2]Graph 1



2 - AMLO

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has been consistently leading the polls since the beginning of the electoral campaign. The last released poll by Mexico City-based organization “Consulta Mitofsky”[3] showed López Obrador with 37.7 percent of voter support, while the second best remains on the 20 percent.


He has been painted as an anti-democratic, populist, demagogue, comparable to Hugo Chávez. His electoral enemies have anticipated an economic crash in Mexico because of his far-left policies while his supporters are not convinced of these accusations and claim that a more fair comparison would be to Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.


AMLO, the former mayor of Mexico City (2000-2005) is racing for the third time to become Mexico’s president, but according to Cristobal Arias, a Latin American economist, “his victory could lead to significant gains in congressional seats too, as Mexicans have historically voted for the same party in both, presidential a congressional ballots”. [4]

Andrés Manuel main campaign proposal is to cleanse the country of corruption, blaming the current regime for the chronic situation of violence and poverty but he has not been clear about the means to achieve these goals. The rise of his party “Morena” is seen as “dangerous” to the current negotiations with Canada and The United States regarding the new free trade agreement, given that his personality has been compared to Donald Trump’s impulsive and nationalist presence.


3 - Ricardo Anaya

Ricardo Anaya Cortés holds the second place in the polls and is a lifelong activist of the center-right National Action Party (PAN) that decided to put aside his political ideology and became the candidate of a political coalition that included the PAN but also the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the left-wing Citizens’ Movement (Movimiento Ciudadano).

Anaya began his political life at 21 by losing a race for local representative in his home state of Queretaro in central Mexico. Then, he became the personal secretary to Queretaro’s governor. That was followed by diverse bureaucratic and electoral offices. His nominations as the candidate of PAN party led to a split in the party after he decided to run in coalition with the PRD.


A big part of his supportive base allegate that Anaya has plenty of talents, like speaking well English, French and Spanish, playing several instruments like the piano, the guitar and the drums. Nevertheless, he has not shown to be charismatic enough to earn the complete support of his own political party and the relative majority of the population. As well, his main proposals don’t seem to represent his original values and the main policies that he is supporting are the Universal Basic Income (UBI) and an increase in the minimum wage.


4 - Meade

José Antonio Meade is the third most popular candidate, a career civil servant representing the now loathed Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), to which current president Enrique Peña Nieto belongs. Although, Meade has tried to project a remote image from the current party he has not succeed, even though he seems to be more prepared than the other candidates. José Antonio is well known as a technocrat with little political baggage and intellectual heft, given that he is an economist with a doctorate from Yale University and has held more jobs in the cabinet than any living politician.

Moreover, he is the first candidate for a major political party that has never been enrolled in any party and before the scandal of corruption, well known as “The Mexico’s $400 Million Swindle”[5] where he was involved, he used to have an honest image.


5 - Bronco

Jaime “El Bronco” Rodríguez is definitely the most eccentric candidate from all. He is a former governor (from the northern state of Nuevo Leon) who is running as an independent and leads 3% of voters´intention, according to the latest polls. His most famous proposal is to tackle corruption by chopping the hands off criminals. “El Bronco” trails in fourth place but his candidacy can still take votes from AMLO. Furthermore, it is important to appoint that this is Mexico’s first presidential election to allow independent candidates.

These elections are representative of a country where the center-right manifesto proposes as prior commitments, the implementation of Minimum Wage and UBI. The candidate of the most autocratic party is actually not enrolled in any party at all.  Furthermore, there is an independent candidate that pursues to chop the hands off the criminals, and another controversial figure (AMLO) that in the past was strongly criticized for the same people that now want to vote for him, his credibility is still under evaluation as his anticorruption strategy is still not clear.


We are about to witness a democratic transition towards the left-wing spectrum, after the peaceful democratization in 2000, when the dominant political party (PRI), that ruled without changes for more than 70 years got defeated by the PAN. There are multiple challenges that the next Mexican president will have to face; like excessive corruption in the political sphere, extreme violence because of the Drug war and an increasingly tense relation with the northern neighbor.









This article was written by Aaron Sandoval, Emiliano Levario, Jessica Dávila (June, 2018)