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The hour of truth.

2006 will be an important year in Mexico's political life. Next July 2, Mexicans will decide between giving the left the chance to govern the country for the first time, forgiving the political party that for more than sixty decades held tight to the presidency or renewing the votes for the party that governs today through President Vicente Fox.

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The competition for Mexico's presidency, which begins officially on January 18, will take place in a stable climate in terms of macroeconomic and financial variables. But in contrast with this forecast, the competition for the presidency of the Republic will be surrounded by uncertainty. Just as in recent pollster's projections, it is highly probable that the difference in votes between the first and second places will be minimal. Thus, doubts about the triumphant winner will be maintained days after the election, until the votes are all counted and the refutations the parties will toss around are resolved.

One trait of the electoral contest will be a dirty war among the principal candidates. Media scandals, especially regarding corruption, have the potential to annul the contenders' possibilities of triumph. Additionally, they will provoke even more disrepute of politics in general among the populace, which has the potential to lower electoral participation.

In this vein, here are three possible scenarios for 2006.

In the first, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), wins the presidency with a small advantage over his principal rival, Roberto Madrazo, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate. And Felipe Calderon, of the National Action Party (PAN), remains in third position.

Within this schema, the PRD augments its representation in Congress, but the PRI maintains the majority in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate and the PAN sees its legislative presence weakened. To expand the operating margin of his party, Lopez Obrador makes good use of the period before taking his presidential appointment to announce the integration of an economic cabinet that will calm the markets and ensure the continuity of macroeconomic stability. He also establishes minimal accords with the smaller parties and an important chunk of the PRIs legislators, and thus impels key reforms of his government's platform.

Thus, the PAN will be plunged into a process of internal reorganization and will assume, from a conservative position, the principal role of opposition to the new government. The PRI will experience a process of fragmentation into regional groups, while other priista groups identified with the government of Lopez Obrador will seek to maintain a cooperative relationship with the new president with the idea of recuperating the power in the next sexenio (presidential period).

In the second scenario, the social polarization that will provoke the savage confrontation between Lopez Obrador and Madrazo and a successful electoral campaign from the PAN, directed principally at the youth--which represents 45 percent of the electorate--will leave Calderon triumphant.

However, he will lack a majority in the legislature. Lopez Obrador will refute the election's results and refuse to recognize Calderon's victory. Consequentially, and though the PRD will be the second most powerful political force, the new government will look for minimal accords with the PRI and small parties. For its part, the PRI will continue to be the majority in the Congress, but by a smaller margin.

Calderon will do what Fox did not: govern with the PAN and combat the radical perredismo and the priismo that still conserves the spirit of its authoritarian past. The PRD will maintain the government of Mexico City, its principal bastion of political power, and will concentrate on an internal struggle to redefine the leadership and orientation of the party. The PRI will enter a profound internal crisis, with significant political detachment.

The third scenario, in which the PRI returns to Los Pinos, is not likely to come to pass. The distrust that Madrazo generates in a large amount of undecided Mexican voters, among other factors, is significant. But the scenario is not impossible, as the PRI is above all a party with an electoral structure proven at the national level, which, in conjunction with other factors, such as a low level of citizen participation, could make the PRI the surprise on July 2.

Joel Estudillo Rendon is a member of the board of the Instituto Mexicano de Estudios Politicos.
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Title Annotation:POLITICAL SOAPBOX
Author:Rendon, Joel Estudillo
Publication:Business Mexico
Date:Dec 1, 2005
Words:720
Previous Article:Searching for Hispanic production.
Next Article:2006: trading gains for stability; The efforts of the Mexican government to armor the economy against any possible shocks persist.
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