To understand the context behind the Mexican election, we need to go back a bit, and look at some history.
Mexico spent most of its post-columbus history as a key part of the "Spanish Main" a territory that formed the core of Spanish colonization in the Americas and stretched from Venezuela to Louisiana, depending on the defintion. By the time of Independence, around 1820 (the time when most of latin america became independent, thanks in no small part to Napoleon's attacks on the mother countries) Mexico was the second most populous Country / Colony in the Americas, behind only the United States.
The modern democratic history of Mexico begins in 1920 with the victory of the Labour Party, both at the ballot box and partly through force of arms, in elections. This party would, more or less, morph into the PRI that we know today, with some major and important events and changes in 1934, and 1946 (that are not key to understanding the context of the modern election) things did not see major changes until the 1970s. Starting in 1970, Mexico began to experience serious economic problems. President Echeverria managed to win the 1970 election with 86% of the vote, took all 64 Senate seats, and 178 of the 213 seats in the house.
Part of what sparked the Mexico Revolution that 'ended' in 1920, was the constant re-election of the same man, Porfirio Diaz, won 7 elections in a row, in a manner see by the revolutionaries as unfair. As such, Mexico developed with are perhaps the strongest term limit laws in the world. The President gets a single term, period. Until 2014, even Congressmen only were able to serve a single term.
As President Echeverria's term drew to a close, some feared he would coup his own government to stay in power. This did not happen, and in 1976, Jose Lopez Portillo was elected President "unanimously", with a reported 91.9% of ballots cast being valid, and winning Congress by a similarly overwhelming margin as his predecessor.
It was, in fact, in 1977, that Mexico saw election reform. Mexico moved to a Parallel system, one it still uses to this day. This is the same system Japan uses, as well as Russia, and South Korea. I previously wrote about it here.
Under both Lopez and Echeverria, Mexico began to suffer financially. While growth continued, inflation and currency devaluation had seen the currency devalued from $1 USD being able to buy $12.50 MXN, to $1 USD being able to buy a whopping $150.29 MXN. Worse, Mexico had to borrow heavily in order to stem the tide, and it borrowed in foreign currency, meaning all these debts only became more and more expensive.
Miguel de la Madrid managed to win the 1982 Presidential elections with 74.3% of the vote. This is when the economic reality began to catch up to Mexico, with growth being near 0 for the entire term, and disposable income fell in every year. High unemployment drove many to the United States.
However it is the 1988 election where our modern context really begins.
The ruling PRI had one party that traditionally would always oppose it, PAN. A Right-wing party, strongest in Northern Mexico, near the United States, PAN would tend to average 15% in Presidential elections. Recently, however, a number of smaller left-wing parties had risen up and won seats, fueled in no small part by the seats in Congress won due to the 1977 electoral reforms. They decided to put forth a common candidate, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas. On election night, early results had Cardenas ahead of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the PRI candidate, but then there was a "breakdown of the system" used to tabulate votes. Once results began again, the PRI candidate was now ahead, and manage to win the election.
President Madrid later would admit the results had been falsified. Exactly how does not seem to be spelled out anywhere, but from my experience working with election numbers, it is quite clear to me exactly what was done. In short, each Cardenas vote was only counted as half a vote. Turnout in areas he did well was down, whereas turnout in areas he did not do well was not down as far; these discrepancies can be all but eliminated if you simply double his vote total, making turnout figures similar to both 1982 and 1994.
One problem for the left is when I run the numbers, even if their vote total doubled, they would only have a tiny majority in the House, if at all, and would have lost the Senate. Regardless, Salinas was declared the winner and sworn in as President.
It was during Salinas' term that Hyperinflation struck, and the Peso was re-valued 1000 fold. However, starting on January 1st 1994, NAFTA took effect. This helped propel the PRI to a legitimate victory at the polls, with Ernesto Zedillo winning 48.7% of the Presidential vote, and the party maintaining majorities in both chambers of Congress.
It was in 2000, however, that everything would change.
Continued in Part 2.