The threat of a 2015 electoral disaster: the Nayarit case

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On July 6th, elections will be held in two Mexican states: Coahuila and Nayarit. The country’s media focus on these electoral processes has been rather low not only due that they are isolated local elections but also because there is no Governor post at stake. In addition, Coahuila citizens are only voting for the renewal of the 25 seats of the local Congress; no council is up for election. Nayarit voters will appoint 20 municipal leaders as well as all of their local legislators. Although the aforementioned state barely represents one percent of the total voters in the country and its municipalities are not amongst the most powerful in Mexico, the process has turned into a laboratory that is exploring not only the current situation of political and electoral issues – or, in other words, the folkloric politics found in Mexican states – but the outcome of what may occur in locations where law is not always followed and when it (allegedly) is, what are the consequences of having legal frameworks  that are confusing and contradictory.
As it is known, the aforementioned states have currently been trying to harmonize their respective legal frameworks with the recent secondary legislation included in the political-electoral reform. Although the July 6th elections are not using these new regulations, there have been some aspects (independent candidacies, rules for the formation of coalitions, enforcement of gender quotas, requirements for the design of electoral ballots, amongst others) that showcase how the modifications that will be implemented during the 17 coming elections will be handled. Analyzing this issue has become quite important because these states are “trying out” several complex rules as a way to “bring order” into their respective elections, not only because of the lack of agreements within the harmonization of the political reform in two key states in the Mexican power equilibrium: Nuevo León and Jalisco. In both cases, the local PRI factions have tried to include points that have considered being unacceptable by their PAN counterparts, especially those regarding the rules for coalitions – just like it happened with the attempt of returning to the status quo that would benefit small parties by enabling them to survive by allying themselves to other parties. If such disagreements prevail, both states, which are amongst the five most important political entities (perhaps only behind Mexico City and the State of Mexico), next year there will be two contradictory legal frameworks – the Constitutional and the non-harmonized ones – which will enable more electoral judiciary problems due to the contradictions found between the local and Constitutional laws.
Although the elections for July 7th will not be under the legislation of the recent political-electoral reform, there are several elements that shed some light on what may happen when there are elections held under opaque rules, inefficient authorities and traditional power factors where local governments exercise a large – as well as arbitrary – influence over the elections. There have been several situations in Nayarit that can be repeated on other states throughout the 2015 elections. The Electoral Institute of the Nayarit State (IEEN) has officially disregarded the PAN-PRD Alliance because, although it was approved by the local PRD authorities but discredited by the national leadership of the aforementioned party, it was prohibited under the state’s law. However, the local PRD did not care about the matter, agreed a de facto alliance with PAN (both parties organized their candidacies accordingly and decided not to present any candidates where their allies would) and intends to gain seats at the expense of PRI. In this case, parties have found a way to avoid the law with the goal of obtaining electoral advantages. Another example was the gender quota, where parties repeated the names of applicants in uninominal candidacies as well as proportional representation in order to comply with the minimum 40% threshold for women, all because there were not enough members to fulfill the requirement. Likewise, there was a legal complaint that even made its way to the Federal Electoral Court: the design of electoral ballots. PRI, who rules the state and most of its town halls, has received countless lawsuits due to an alleged local interventionism against the opposition. In sum, the Nayarit process, little as it may be, has been marked by chaos, legal troubles and sloppiness.
In the face of discrepancies within the legal framework of Jalisco and Nuevo León, the typical disorder of local elections as well as the monumental challenge that the National Electoral Institute (INE) is facing with its participation on local elections whilst collaborating with local electoral institutions (whose formation is under INE’s supervision) are not forecasts of a good future. The Nayarit case shows how a confusing legislation, combined with factual powers in the state, especially the influence of governors, can generate an electoral gibberish with an uncertain outcome. That way, the pattern of implementing reforms that rather than solving problems, only make them more complex, and instead of diminishing factual powers using counterweights and clear rules, only increase the obstacles for the arbitrary use of authorities, will only be repeating itself.


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