MEXICO CITY – Mexico is welcoming 2018 amid the biggest, costliest and most closely watched election contest in its history, with the presidency, hundreds of national legislative seats and thousands of official posts in 30 states up for grabs and the possibility that the most radical opposition in the last two decades may triumph.
The new Mexican president will inherit a country marked by the highest level of violence in decades, persistent social inequality, institutional corruption and the discredit of the political class, among other problems.
The conflictual relationship with the United States resulting from the continuous disparaging remarks by President Donald Trump, the uncertainty about negotiations to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement and the economic impact of the tax reform package passed by the US Congress constitutes another key factor impacting on the country’s future.
Some 87.8 Mexican citizens are eligible to vote in the July 1 nationwide elections, with 1.4 million of them working at the 156,000 polling places.
The election campaign kicked off on Sept. 16 and the first phase will end on Feb. 11 when the various parties will finalize their tickets for the 3,407 posts that will be renewed.
The person selected as president will serve from 2018-2024, along with 628 members of Congress and governors, lawmakers and city councilmen in 30 states serving terms of assorted lengths.
The budget for the electoral process totals some $1.217 billion, the largest outlay in history, as requested by the National Electoral Institute (INE), to be allocated for the organization and financing of the registered political parties.
A significant portion of those funds will go to the parties to pay for almost 59 million radio and television advertisements.
Three main presidential candidates are far out front in the voter surveys: Andres Manual Lopez Obrador for the left, Ricardo Anaya for the rightist coalition mainly including the National Action Party (PAN) and Jose Antonio Meade for the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who also has the support of the Green party and the New Alliance.
A number of independent presidential candidates are also vying for public attention, air time and seeking to make their mark on the national stage.
The precampaign period runs until Feb. 11, and the campaign itself from March 30-June 27.