Mexico's Midterm Election: a Comeback or Backlash?

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Mexico's midterm elections signaled a comeback for the old ruling PRI party. Voters, who wanted to punish President Calderon because of the recession, handed the PRI the most seats in the lower house of Congress. But a small fringe party benefited from the other big campaign issue: crime

The PRI clearly benefited from backlash against President Calderon's PAN party over the recession wining a majority of the vote.
The other big issue, crime helped boost the small Green Party the ballot box. UT El Paso Political Science Professor Tony Payan told me, "The Green party campaigned actively--you could see it on billboards all over : 'The death penalty to kidnappers, the death penalty to drug traffickers.' That might have had some sort of echo."
That "echo" could total nearly 10% of the vote. Final results are not ready. That's surprising in this predominantly Catholic country and a clear sign of dissatisfaction with the rampant kidnappings and a record murder rate. 800 drug related deaths in June alone. 12,300 since President Calderon took office.

While the PAN took a beating in several states with governor's races, in the border state Sonora voters punished the PRI, the party in power during the tragic daycare fire that killed more than two dozen children. Ana Maria Salazar, a friend and Mexico expert who is on air in Mexico City offers some insight on her blog.

Half-way through his term President Calderon faces a divided Congress as he tries to push his reforms. The PRI and Green Party paired could form a majority in the lower house. The PAN still can sway the Senate.

Austin-based consultant James Taylor's "Vianovo," a management and communications consultancy with expertise in Mexico offered analysis the day after the election. "It is difficult to predict what the PRI majority in the Congress will mean for President Calderon's reform agenda. Some observers believe that the PRI's victory signals the end of reform possibilities, particularly after the PAN's harsh ad campaign. Others believe that the PRI is ultimately a party of pragmatists and, with an eye to regaining the presidency in 2012, it will act now to advance some of the contentious, but much-needed fiscal and structural reforms President Calderon wants." Click here to see the entire post.

What does this mean for President Calderon's drug war? Mexico's President still enjoys a favorable rate that hovers at 70%. And polls show there's widespread national support for his crackdown on drug cartels. But in cities on the frontline in that fight like Ciudad Juarez, there are mixed feelings. There are mounting losses in spite of the military presence.

Gema Lozano, a mother of twin boys and a toddler, credits the soldiers for going after drug dealers in her neighborhood. "They've nabbed several of them and cleaned up street corners where they used to sell drugs, " Lozano told me as a military helicopter hovered overhead.

But when I talked to Alvaro Torres, an unemployed Juarez father of 3 he said fear and violence make it harder for him to find a job. The construction worker said whenever he tries to find odd jobs as a handyman, "People mistrust you. You go with good intentions to find work and even if they have something, they won't hire you."