Tlaxcala's Gubernatorial Elections: A Three Way Tie

The Players

Twelve states in Mexico are holding gubernatorial elections on 5 June 2016, include the state of Tlaxcala, where the three main political parties are fighting against each other to win the governorship. 

The outgoing Governor Mariano González Zarur of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) has been criticized for not achieving the goals set forth for his term, including increasing state growth to 4.5 percent (only achieved 3.4 percent), adding 12,300 new jobs (only 3,059 were created), and decreasing informal labor (actually increased from 69.4 to 70 percent). González Zarur is leaving office with a 59 percent disapproval rating, and 75 percent of people saying they are dissatisfied with where the state is headed. 

With the people weary of the current PRI government, the party’s coalition candidate (Verde Ecologista, Nueva Alianza and the local Partido Socialista), Marco Antonio Mena Rodríguez, faces a tough race against the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) and the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) candidates. Mena Rodríguez was the former Tlaxcala Tourism Secretary, the Coordinator of the Advisors to the IFE President as well as the coordinator of the Relations with IMSS Social Organizations and Businesses, and a Mexican Delegate for the OECD Local Development Directive Committee.

Unlike in several other states, PRD and PAN decided against an alliance in Tlaxcala, as each party believed their candidates had a chance of winning individually. The PRD, allied with the PT, nominated Lorena Cuéllar Cisneros, who was a municipal president of the capital city of Tlaxcala and is currently a federal Senator. Adriana Dávila Fernández is the PAN candidate, and she was the PAN State Public Relations and Communications Committee Director. She helped coordinated the 2006 PAN presidential campaign and was a candidate for governor in 2011. 
Other parties have also presented candidates for the coveted governorship seat. Under the banner of MORENA, Martha Palafox Gutiérrez is also running for the governorship; Movimiento Ciudadano selected Edilberto Algredo Jaramillo, and Partido Encuentro Social nominated Marco Antonio Hernández Morales; Jacob Hernández Corona is running as an independent. Yet, these candidates do not have the same popularity as the three from the primary parties.

Polls and Campaigns

El Financiero conducted a poll on 1 May 2016, citing Adriana Dávila (PAN) with 30 percent of the vote, Lorena Cuéllar (PRD) with 29 percent, and Marco Antonio Mena with only 26 percent of the vote. Only three days later, a poll conducted by De las Heras Demotecnia indicated PRD candidate Lorena Cuéllar was leading with 27 percent of the vote, followed by Adriana Dávila Fernández (PAN) and Marco Antonio Mena Rodríguez (PRI), with 25 percent of the vote each. 

A recent Varela y Asociados poll conducted on 21 to 23 May, has Dávila Fernández (PAN) winning the election with 30 percent of the vote, and 28 percent for both the PRI and PRD candidates. However, a poll released by El Universal on 23 May 2016, shows Mena Rodríguez (PRI) as winning 34.5 percent, followed by PRD candidate Cuéllar Cisneros 28.1 percent, and PAN’s Dávila Fernández with 21.6 percent. Since the three parties are fragmented, failing to form any meaningful political alliance for the gubernatorial race, they constantly split the polls shifting back and forth for who is in the lead -- with each party confident that they will win. 

While Adriana Dávila Fernández may have been considered the initial favorite according to the polls, Lorena Cuéllar was considered the winner of the second debate organized by the Instituto Tlaxcalteca de Elecciones (ITE) in the middle of May. Furthermore, the El Financiero poll from early May indicated Lorena Cuéllar had a higher favorable image (39 percent) than Adriana Dávila (36 percent). Even the El Universal poll, Cuéllar maintained her higher favorable image rating (35.3 percent) than Dávila (32.5 percent), despite poll indicating she would lose to Mena. Cuéllar’s debate win and favorable image made her a target for the other parties’ campaigns.

On 24 May 2016, National PRD President Octavio Martínez Vargas accused Mena (PRI) of implementing a smear campaign against Lorena Cuéllar, which went over established electoral campaign spending limits and used public funds. He claimed PRI campaign text messages attacking Cuéllar were paid for by the Tlaxcala Finance Secretariat. Martínez Vargas also pointed out that at least half a million pesos were used to distribute millions of pamphlets denouncing Cuéllar in 60 municipalities. State PRD leader Juan Manuel Cambrón Soria said the PRI and PAN are continuing their “dirty war” against their candidate, spreading false information about the PRD political agenda via social media.

The PRI is not the only party attacking Cuéllar, PAN State President Carlos Carreón Mejía alleged the financial information Cuéllar posted to the 3de3 platform is false, saying she is worth more than 80 million pesos (US$4.33 million) instead of the 1.5 million pesos (US$81,328) she claimed. He also pointed out that she owns a gas station, Servicios Tlaxcala S.A de C.V, and hides her income from gas, and even voted against the energy reform, because it would benefit her.

The Winner

Based on the recent El Universal poll, it appears Mena may have a chance at winning the governor’s seat. Analysts interviewed by Southern Pulse in recent weeks also view Tlaxcala as a likely PRI victory. However, the inconsistency among the polls indicates a close race. El Mileno highlighted the unique three-way tie situation in Tlaxcala on 26 May, but opined the PRI and PRD are best positioned to win the race, closing out PAN (Dávila). However, the article lamented that power in Tlaxcala would remain within the hands of one the three families that have held power for the last 50 years, as Mena and Cuéllar are members of two of three families (and Mena is also the brother-in-law of Cuéllar).

Regardless, all three candidates recognize the poor state of Tlaxcala, building their platforms around agriculture, education, health, and jobs. Mena’s (PRI) platform prioritizes construction, agricultural and aquaculture sectors, including offering a 50 percent subsidy for acquiring livestock and a 25 percent subsidy for delivering chemical and organic fertilizers, and corn, oat and triticale seeds. He also promised support to families, providing a small subsidy packages to women and youth developing skills as well as to invest heavily in Tlaxcala’s education infrastructure as a means to prevent and combat crime. Mena also wants to bring new industry to Tlaxcala, such as automobiles, to generate jobs.

Cuéllar’s (PRD) platform prioritizes providing basic services to the public, including infrastructure projects and developing a Bank of Projects; modernizing the general hospital and building specialized clinics for oncology (women and children), trauma, orthopedics, dialysis, and transplants; and using one of the state helicopters as an air ambulance. She proposes to implement the Alerta Mujer program to fight human trafficking, and housing improvement programs that provide credits for buying household appliances with low interest. Cuellar also is proposing projects to help the foresting, agriculture, and fishing sectors. She is also proposing cutting income tax by 2 percent, building a new industrial park to increase the number of jobs, and increasing education scholarships.

The platform of Dávila Fernández (PAN) is similar appears very similar to Cuéllar’s, with an emphasis on health and education as she believes they are the key to social and economic development, but also including agriculture, tourism, employment, poverty and sports. Her education policies seek to modernize schools and providing transportation to schools. She also is proposing policies centered around women, providing housing credits and subsidized family food baskets. She wants to give farmers the opportunity to commercialize and sell their products by creating a Agroindustrial City, where primary agricultural products, such as corn, wheat, barley, peaches, avocados and potatoes, can be turned into cereals and other products that can be sold locally and nationally. 

All three candidates have mentioned the importance of security in their campaigns, only Cuéllar and Dávila have been vocal about corruption, taking a stand that their campaigns are and their tenure would be honest and transparent. Cuéllar said corruption in Tlaxcala is preventing the modernization of the state’s infrastructure, and that she would implement a state level anti-corruption system. However, Mena has made a concession on the topic of corruption, saying he and his cabinet would comply with the 3de3 financial disclosure requests. 

No matter which party wins the tight election, the new governor of Tlaxcala will have his/her work cut out, where 58.9 percent of the population is in poverty, access to public services are limited, and it is a challenge to create formal employment.