Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Zapatistas and Mexican elections

Michael from my Intro to Comparative Politics class emailed me a good question—with all the furor over the Mexican presidential election, where are Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas? Michael asked whether it seemed Marcos will become less popular for refusing to support AMLO’s campaign.

The main answer is that the Zapatistas don’t identify with AMLO or the PRD. Here is an English-language account from the Socialist point of view of how this attitude made many people uncomfortable, because the left was supposed to show solidarity. He led a tour, calling himself “Delegate Zero,” and his movement “The Other Campaign” as an alternative to the other candidates.

La Jornada interviewed Marcos soon after the election in July. His attitude was that AMLO won, but that there was little difference between any of the candidates, and the entire system (including all parties and the IFE) is corrupt.

In the presidential election, 49% in Chiapas voted, which was the third lowest of any Mexican state (Chihuahua and Guerrero were lower). The national average was 58.55 percent.

Now, of course, there is a new controversy in Chiapas in the gubernatorial election (see Fruits and Votes for analysis). Once again the Zapatistas appear to be absent. A winner won’t be declared until Sunday, but preliminary results show that only 44% of the population voted.

A reasonable conclusion, therefore, is that abstention in Chiapas mattered—clearly for the gubernatorial election, and to some degree (how much is difficult to discern) for the presidential. Marcos could therefore be a player, but that would mean entering mainstream politics, into the system that he has said for years is venal and corrupt.

So here’s the dilemma: stay pure, but marginalized, or become tainted and more influential. By rejecting AMLO, Marcos chose the former, and for those who believe that an AMLO/PRD victory could have effected real change, that decision may not be too popular.


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