Elections in Michoacan, Mexico

On 11 November, the Mexican state of Michoacan, in the central region of the country, had elections for governor, state assembly, and municipal offices. The state is the birthplace of Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas, the founder of the center-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD). The PRD’s presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (“AMLO”), narrowly lost the 2006 national presidential election.

In the state elections, the PRD held on to the state’s governorship, but with not even one third of the votes. Leonel Godoy Rangel had 33.1%, beating the candidate of the National Action Party (PAN, the party of President Felipe Calderón). The PAN candidate, Salvador Lopez Orduña, had 30.5%. ((Orduña has been the mayor of the capital, Morelia, for the past three years. (The PRD also won that city’s mayoralty on 11 November.) )) The candidate of the PRI won 24%. In addition to the PRD, Godoy was backed by the smaller PT, Convergencia, and Alternativa parties.

From a preliminary count of the elections for state deputies (for the unicameral legislative assembly), it appears the PRD-PT alliance won about 31.9% of the vote to 29.2% for the PRI and 27.5% for the PAN. ((I do not know the electoral system of Michoacan. All Mexican states have variants of the national single-vote MMM system, though some lean more towards MMP. There are 24 single-seat districts, and it appears that 12 of them were won by the PRD-PT, while the PAN won 8 and the PRI 4. There would also be some number of PR-list seats, but I do not know how many or how they are allocated. As long as they are not highly compensatory–i.e. that the system is not MMP–the PRD-PT will be substantially over-represented in the legislature–perhaps around 40% of the seats. The legislature’s website was not working when I tried to check on its size or electoral system. On the Google search page, there was a page within the legislature’s site indicated as being about an Acuerdo de Reforma Electoral.)) Assuming those results are correct, note that the order of finish for the second and third parties was reversed between the two elections. The obvious conclusion would be that some PRI voters favored the PAN gubernatorial candidate in an effort to block Godoy. Similar tactical voting (on a much larger scale) by PRI voters probably prevented AMLO from winning the presidency in 2006.

Despite the “juxtaposed government” of PAN at the center and PRD in the state, ((I owe the term, juxtaposed government, to Alain De Remes.)) and despite AMLO’s continuing refusal to accept the PAN national victory, Governor-elect Godoy promises that his relations with the President will be “cordial.” He further says:

Nosotros no podemos adoptar actitudes suicidas, de no tener una relación de plena colaboración ante tal dependencia del Gobierno federal.

Indeed, it would be “suicidal” to adopt a confrontational attitude, given that 96% of the state’s revenues come from federal transfers. ((According to an article in the 12 November edition of Reforma by Adán García, Denis Rodríguez y Daniel Pensamiento, which was also the source of the quote from Godoy. (Via Lexis Nexis.) ))

Normally, like the federal executive, a state governor in Mexico serves a six-year term. However, Godoy’s term will be four years, following a state constitutional change. Reforma says the change is meant to synchronize state and federal elections in the future. How far in the future? The next federal elections will be in 2009 (lower house of congress) and after that, 2012 (presidency and both federal chambers). So, only if this governor and his successor are elected for four-year terms will elections be synchronized–in the federal midterm election of 2015 (presumably again for a six-year term). It seems if synchronization is the goal, a clever and mathematically inclined political engineer might have come up with another way (e.g. elect this governor for five years, and then have state and federal elections in 2012).

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