With a double digit lead over his two main rivals and the election just weeks away, as conventional political wisdom went, the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s candidate Enrique Peña Nieto seemed poised to take back the Mexican Presidency for the political party that governed Mexico for 71 years under authoritarian rule. But a deep unease with possibility of the return of PRI—just 12 years after Mexico ushered in democracy—has rapidly transformed into a nascent, non partisan citizen movement that has injected excitement and unpredictability in what many thought was a [non]race with foregone conclusion.
It was sparked by Peña Nieto’s May 11 visit to Ibero-American University, an elite private Catholic school in Mexico City. Students there booed and jeered the presidential candidate, chanting ‘out with the PRI,’ as they ran him out of the university during what was supposed to be a highly scripted campaign stop.
The optics were inspiring. Peña Nieto’s carefully crafted candidacy as the face of a ‘new PRI’ began to unravel, as did the air of inevitability. Mexican youth got their ‘Spring.’
Demonstrations against Peña Nieto and the powerful television network protestors say favors him spread to other Mexican cities. The #YoSoy132 movement was born. Even in Tijuana, where apathy reigns, a cross section of the city took to the streets to defend Mexico’s young democracy. New polling indicates that the movement is having an impact. While the movement doesn’t see Mexico’s salvation in partisan terms, the demonstrations against Peña Nieto are taking their toll. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, candidate for the Party of the Democratic Revolution, is closing the gap on PRI. Whether its enough to tip the election remains to be seen. At the very least, in the final weeks of the campaign, we finally have a race on our hands.