Even with the National Action Party’s 61-year existence it was only able to gain the support required to win an election this past year. The party had always, with the exception of two elections, been able to win second place to the Institutional Revolutionary Party. It took the character of Vicente Fox to win the popular vote and remove the long ruling PRI. Fox wasn’t the only force helping to end the 71 year one party rule, the National Democratic Institute, which oversees the validity of elections in democratically struggling countries, watched carefully to see that the PRI did not continue its traditional election tampering. With the election of Fox, the Mexican people are expecting the new party to do what the former government couldn’t. If Fox fails it could lead the country away from the path to democracy.
Vicente Fox is a 58-year-old divorced father of four adopted children who had spent most of his adult life rising through the political ranks and fighting the PRI the whole way. He was not unaccustomed to fighting his way to success after his career with Mexico’s Coca-Cola Corporation. He began at Coke as a route supervisor and within 10 years became the company’s youngest president at age. Entering politics at 1987 he won a federal Congressman’s seat just a year later. In the same year he began his protest of fraud in the presidential elections by taping the burning of electoral ballots. He lost his bid for the governor of his home state allegedly due to the PRI’s election tampering but this only further set his mind on the presidency.
Rather than depend on the support of those in the National Action Party, Fox established the “Friends of Fox” to raise the money and the support for his presidential run. The Campaign was a tough one, Fox and Labastida, the PRI candidate, were considered to be in a dead heat right up to the election. Fox not only had to convince people the long ruling government had to go but also had to convince voters not to split this “vote for change” between his party and the other major candidate Cardenas. Fox also had to overcome the election tampering that had become so evident in Mexico. Fox had the help of NDI (National Democratic Institution) with this large task. All of Mexico, the ruling party and opposing parties worked with the NDI to reform the political system. By the 2000 election the Mexican Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) independently oversaw the election process, citicens became involved in the processs through election monitoring, the news media was pushed by the people to become more impartial (first ever presidential debates) and funding was left directly to the citizens.
With the new forces in politics and Fox’s appeal to the people’s desire for change he won with almost 43% of the vote. “The election was a victory of democracy insofar as voting was free and a high percentage of the population exercised that right.” Now Fox needs to work with the rest of the Mexican government to see that the transition leads to the changes promised, else Mexico will most probably slide back to his historically authoritarian past. Mexican’s voted for change, not for Fox so his ability to make changes will be what he will be judged by. Fox has many problems to deal with, poverty , health, education and corruption are just a few. If Fox was right when he proclaimed that “A change of government is the best antidote to corruption which has reached intolerable levels” then he has already made a major stride in the right direction.
Ending or even curbing corruption will not be enough to keep the PRI from resurging back into the presidency, there are 40 million poor people in Mexico that will look to see an improvement in there daily lives. To do this Fox would like to change programs within Mexico and also change the relationship with Mexico and foreign powers, especially the United States. Within Mexico he wishes to double the education budget and increase private medical services leaving the government to care for only the poorest Mexicans. With respect to the United States, Fox has very progressive ideas on drug trafficking, immigration and NAFTA. Fox is somewhat critical on the Unites States handling of Mexico with respect to drug control. Fox’s advisor Andres Rozental believes that the contries involved in drug trafficking fall into three major categories, the producing, the transiting, and the consuming countries.
Each type of country should be handled differently because the Mexican government will be unable to curbed the transit of drugs unless the demand in the US is significantly diminished, everyone is to blame. Although Fox wishes to increase the jobs available in Mexico, Mexicans will do what they can to escape poverty, that fact leads to drug trafficking and illegal immigration. In order to resolve the immigration issue Fox believes the economic differences in the countries needs to be minimized. To accomplish this Fox would like to see the US and Mexico do more than expand NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) he would like to see the countries move towards a common North American Market. The programs spoken of by Fox are just that, words. The test of the administration will be the introduction of the programs into law.