July 9, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Conservative defeat in Mexico

Mexico flag The National Action Party of President Felipe Calderon suffered a large loss of seats in the Mexican national congress as the result of the midterm elections held on Sunday. Obviously, the economic recession played a large role in the conservative losses, but other factors such as the swine flu outbreak (see Cinco de Mayo) and the virtual war against drug lords in northern Mexico (see March 15) also cost the president's party a large number of votes. Calderon's failure to resolve the immigration issue with the Bush administration probably weakend his stature among Mexicans somewhat as well. See CNN.com.

What really stands out from the election is the very poor showing of the left-wing PRD, whose candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had come very close to winning the presidential election three years ago. and the growing strength of the PRI-Green faction. So, there is a silver lining in the election results: It will be somewhat easier for President Calderon to work with Congress since there are fewer far left members and a correspondingly greater number of moderate (PRI) leftists. Clearly, nonetheless, President Calderon will become a virtual lame duck for the rest of his six-year term. Aside from the big shift in strength from the PAN to the PRI, two The environmental movement in Mexico seems to be gaining popularity, which is a welcome change. Here are the preliminary results, including my unofficial estimates of the seats to be chosen by proportional representation. (See below.)*

Party Chamber of Deputy seats,
by district
(+ prop. rep.)
Percent of votes
National Action Party (PAN) 72 (+ 56 ?) 27.9%
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) 134 (+ 75 ?) 37.7%
Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD) 40 (+ 24 ?) 11.9%
PRI - Green 51 (+ 13 ?) 6.4%
Others 3 (+ 20 ?) 10.2%

In the governor's races, PRI staged a comeback as well, winning six states, including San Luis Potosi and Queretaro. Only in Sonora, just south of Arizona, did a National Action candidate win: Guillermo Padres. After a meeting with President Calderon, the leader of PAN, German Martinez, took responsibility for the defeat by resigning. See El Sol de Mexico. There is a possibility of widespread vote recounts due to various irregularities, but there seem to be no systematic manipulation, as was the case in the sharply disputed 2006 election. PRI leaders expressed confidence that they can retake the presidency in 2012, after two consecutive defeats at the hands of PAN. It remains to be seen whether they can overcome internal divisions between modernizers and the old guard defenders of statist economic policy, however.

* In Mexico, elections are held for all 500 seats of the Chamber of Deputies every three years, 300 of whom are directly elected in single-member districts, with the remaining 200 members being chosen by proprtional representation, based on each party's share of the popular vote nationwide. The 128 Senate seats are put to a vote every six years, coinciding with the presidential terms.

The Mexico background information page has been accordingly updated.

Stalemate in Honduras

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987, is trying to mediate the dispute between former President Zelaya and the de factor authorities in Honduras. He certainly has his work cut out for him, as neither side seems prepared to compromise very much. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Zelaya on Tuesday, but did not make any strong statements on the matter. The government of Honduras remains defiant in the face of heavy international pressure, and the cutoff of financial aid and some trade flows may lead to unrest in the country in a matter of weeks. See BBC.

I learned from the Economist magazine that the constitution of Honduras has no provisions for removing a president from office. So, the steps taken by the Supreme Court and Congress to give legal sanction to the removal of Zelaya were as proper as they could have possibly done.

A modest proposal

The leftist victory in Mexico raises anew the question of how to deal with the immigration / border problem between the United States and Mexico. Here is a radical solution: combine the two countries into one! Take a look at "Megamerge: The Dissolution Solution," by T. L. Winslow.