What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Millions of Mexicans vote in a violence-marred midterm election

Mexicans voted on Saturday in the nation’s largest election in history, which saw all 500 seats in the lower house of Congress, nearly half the state governorships and almost 20,000 local offices go to polls. The election is being seen as a referendum on President López Obrador, who critics fear will further centralize power and gain control of courts and regulatory agencies. NPR Correspondent Carrie Kahn joins for more.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    NPR international correspondent Carrie Kahn is in Mexico City and joined me for more on today's elections.

  • Carrie Kahn:

    There is a lot at stake just in the sheer number of the races that are taking place in Mexico at this time. There's nearly half of all the governorships in the state, in the country, there are more than 2,000 local elections and the entire lower house of the Congress, all seats are up. But what is not on the ballot is the president. But this has become a referendum on his very unique take here in Mexico. He self proclaimed himself as bringing forth transformation, a transformative government to Mexico. He swept into office in 2018 with just a landslide on this anti-corruption, anti waste, anti establishment platform. And that has a long tail to it. And we'll see how that works. Now he's halfway through, almost halfway through his six-year, one-time term. And so this has become a bit of a referendum on his rule here in Mexico and that platform.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Similar to everywhere on the planet, the pandemic is an issue, or at least how you dealt with the pandemic. And one could argue that looking at Mexico's numbers right now and the actions they took in the beginning, it wasn't well handled. Are people thinking about that in terms of whether or not to give him more power?

  • Carrie Kahn:

    Surprisingly, it's not high on the list of voters issues that are taking him to the polls. It's more about his performance here when it comes to the economy and top on people's minds here is the security situation in Mexico. Homicides are at record levels. Organized crime is at record levels, and that's what's on a lot of people's minds. But you'd think the pandemic, Mexico is now fourth in the world with the largest number of COVID deaths, more than 300,000 tested, two hundred and forty-some thousand. So you think that would be top on the mind, but it really isn't. And some people have given the president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, high marks for his handling, mostly because vaccines have been coming into the country. There have been some stalls and some problems not at the fault of the government, but about a quarter of all adults in the country now have at least one vaccine. He says he's going to vaccinate everyone over the age of 18 by the end of October. And our numbers have plummeted here so, recently, people are happy with his handling of it. In the beginning, not so much.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    You know, you mentioned violence and you've been reporting on how the violence from the cartels is also permeating into politics. Tell us about that.

  • Carrie Kahn:

    It has been a very violent election here in the lead up to it. Election season started last September. If you look at the numbers, more than 35 candidates have been killed and those are candidates. And if you expand that to a politician's aides and election workers, dozens of people have been killed in the run up to these elections. It is not the most bloodiest, but it is on track to be the second most bloodiest in a lot of those have been in smaller local elections, where local power struggles, where organized crime gangs, drug cartels and even political power feuds have been raging in those parts of the country. And it's just been devastating to the democratic process here in Mexico.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So we've got the vice president scheduled to visit. How is Mexico going to receive this planning and receive this?

  • Carrie Kahn:

    Well, we'll have to see how the elections turned out, one analyst told me she might find him, the president, in a very good mood if he does well in the elections today, or she might find him in a very bad mood. But what we'll see in public will be about cooperation, resetting the Mexican-US relations. It's going to, publicly, it'll all go very well. The president, in the run up to her visit, has been very vocal about what he calls U.S. intervention in Mexico. He's very unhappy about a few issues, especially USAID funding of independent institutions here in Mexico, free speech journal, independent journalists sites. But that is unlikely, those issues are unlikely to come up, including what a lot of his opponents say here is his power grab, his attempts to bring a lot of those independent institutions under his wing now, we probably won't hear any of that it's all going to be about migration and resetting and the good relations between the U.S. and Mexico during her visit.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Carrie Kahn, international correspondent for NPR, joining us from Mexico City. Thanks so much.

  • Carrie Kahn:

    You're welcome.

Listen to this Segment