Another earthquake shook the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca Sunday, this one at the voting booths. After 80 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), in recent years marked by repression and corruption, a right-left alliance of the PAN (National Action Party) and PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party) led by Gabino Cue Monteagudo will take office December 1.
Although there were reports of vote-buying efforts by PRI officials in various communities, Gabino Cue’s lead and the widespread declarations that he was the victor clinched the election by late in the evening. PRI candidate, Eviel Pérez Magaña, conceded shortly before 1 am.
In the neighborhood where Judy and I are staying Election Day was quiet, but since I’ve never been here before on a Sunday I can’t really say if this is normal or unusual. I can say that the local laundromat was closed despite a sign that indicated they were open on Sundays. I don’t know if the closure had anything to do with the election; I just know I am out of clean clothes.
The local polling place, a neighborhood school, resembled ones at home, though without the campaign supporters holding signs and passing out leaflets. There were two tables of registrars, and at least one observer from a political party, the PAN. Voters had to present their voter ID cards, which were checked against a registry that included photos. There were two voting stations and three paper ballots, one for Governor, one for Deputy (like a member of the state legislature), and one for the local council. Ballots had names and logos of parties, not names of candidates. A friend speculated this might be confusing to some voters, given that the major candidates were representing coalitions of parties and if more than one box were checked the ballot would be spoiled. There is also a space to annul the ballot, in effect a vote for “none of the above.” After completing their ballots, voters fold and stuff them into boxes, then have their fingers inked to prevent repeat voting.
As of this writing, with 95% of the ballots counted, Gabino has an 8 point lead over Eviel, a solid victory for the supporters of change, which is surely in the air. The teachers ended their occupation of the city center late last week. That is good news for them, good news for the city’s tourism-based economy, and not bad for tourists like us.
The powerful teachers union, which had been on strike for weeks, exulted at Gabino’s victory despite the fact that they never gave him an explicit endorsement. Union leader Azael Santiago Chepi called it “a historic moment, a veritable parting of the waters.” But he also noted that underlying issues, including the need to bring to justice those responsible for the political crimes of recent years, have yet to be resolved.
As candidate of the Coalition for Peace and Progress, Gabino has promised change, and also promised reconciliation. With the crimes of the current regime still unpunished and political prisoners still in jail, reconciliation will be as much of a challenge as longstanding conflicts over land, water, and other resources. Gabino has a few months left to get ready.