The Mexican Presidential debate was a total JOKE!

I have terrible new for any Mexicans who were hoping to be able to make a more educated voting decision after last night's Presidential candidate debate...

Instead of focusing on the issues so important to our country at this pivotal moment in Mexico's history, the candidates used their allocated time to exchange accusations and counter-accusations (it was honestly like watching 2 hours of ping pong).

The tone got out of hand as each candidate--except Quadri, who seemed as confused as I was--busted out props like photos, graphics and magazines in an attempt to destroy each other's credibility.

Here are the highlights of the lunacy:

  1. Lopez Obrador brought out the first photo of the night, one of Enrique Peña Nieto, the candidate of the PRI, smiling alongside Ex-Governor Arturo Montiel, whose career ended in accusations of corruption.
  2. Enrique Peña Nieto pulled out a photo of a former Lopez Obrador aide, jailed on a corruption charge.
  3. Manuel López Obrador showed the camera another photo, of Peña Nieto with former President Carlos Salinas, pointing out the evidence of certain power-brokers trying to retake power for the party that ruled for 71 years before it lost the presidency in 2000.
  4. Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling PAN, leaped in with a blown-up cover of an Economist magazine profile of Peña Nieto, saying that it showed how he had lied about reducing homicide figures during his term as governor of the state of Mexico.

This was the first televised debate among the four presidential candidates and it was a key opportunity for Peña Nieto's rivals to cut into his lead. Polls have shown us that Peña Nieto is heading for a very comfortable victory, and the other candidates (Vazquez Mota and Lopez Obrador) are running out of time to catch up. Also, after a number of embarrassing public gaffes at the turn of the year (like being unable to mention his three favorite books during the Guadalajara Book Fair), Peña Nieto had refused several invitations to debate with his rivals, prompting accusations from critics that he is too dependent on his teleprompter.

Analysts say he has little to gain from such debates and could only risk damaging his carefully managed image (and hairstyle of course). This much is true and the sad part is that regardless of his mistakes, he's heading for the Presidential seat along with La Gaviota (his soap opera star wife).

I was looking forward to this debate, because my personal attacks on Enrique Peña Nieto are taking its toll on my marriage--my husband thinks he is the "best option" for Mexico and I have stayed loyal to my leftist friend Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. The last two days have been filled with endless discussions on the subject (we got pretty carried away during dinner at a restaurant recently, prompting more than one curious diners to stare at us).

So for me, and many others the debate, was a test of whether Peña Nieto could
"hold his own" under pressure. The handsome and telegenic former Governor had to step out of his carefully choreographed campaign for two hours and actually think on his feet. Or maybe not so much, since the questions for the debate were agreed-upon beforehand.

Peña Nieto stuck to his themes of change and competence, and opened the debate by describing Mexico's economic performance as the worst in 80 years, saying "there aren't enough jobs, and the ones that exist don't pay well."

Vazquez Mota emphasized her role as the only woman in the race (blah, blah…), and sought to de-emphasize her ties to the party that has governed for the last 12 years. "I want to be president because I have the sensitivity, as a woman, to listen," she said. "I'm a different candidate ... different because I don't belong to powerful, privileged groups, because I'm honest."

Lopez Obrador portrayed both parties as bastions of an unjust socio-economic order in which billionaire businessmen enjoyed luxuries amid widespread poverty. "This dominant group has privatized the government, do you think things will get better if the PRI comes back?"

  • Another presidential debate is scheduled for June 10. And here's what I'm looking for:
  • Gabriel Quadri of the New Alliance Party stirring up trouble for the other candidates.
  • Lopez Obrador sending Vazquez Mota for a well deserved third place in the race (or fourth) with his passionate orating skills.
  • And a miracle that brings Peña Nieto down, before sitting with his family in Los Pinos.

We'll see… in the meantime I will make peace with my husband... I'm telling you, politics are best left out of the bedroom (and restaurants).

Image via AP

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