The wave of assassinations of candidates in the upcoming Mexican elections claimed yet another victim this week, when Miguel Angel Luna—running for Congress in a district just outside Mexico City—was shot dead as gunmen stormed his campaign office. Luna, a former mayor of Valle de Chalco in the state of México, was running with the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). A candidate for the local town council was also wounded in the attack. News accounts offered no motive, but it is assumed that such victims are targeted for not playing ball with the local narco-gangs or for playing ball with the wrong narco-gang.
Meanwhile, a new wave of protests was launched over the case of the 43 students who went missing in September 2014. Three police and one student protester were injured during a demonstration Wednesday in Ayotzinapa, the town in the state of Guerrero where the disappeared students were attending a rural college. Student protesters are pledging to disrupt the elections, saying the violence and corruption across the nation make them a farce. Overall, more than 20 people have died in connection with the elections so far.
“We must stop voting for narco-politicians in our country,” a protester named Francisco Sánchez Nava told the Buenos Aires Herald. “It is the only way we have of changing things in our country where there are nearly 30,000 missing people.”
In the June 7 mid-term elections, all 500 seats in the lower-house Chamber of Deputies will be up for grabs, and 17 out of Mexico’s 31 states (plus the Federal District) will be voting for governors, state legislators and municipal leaders. These are the first major elections since the reforms that created a new electoral authority, the National Electoral Institute (INE).
The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Mexico’s old political machine, won a slim majority in the Chamber of Deputies in 2012—thanks to its unlikely bloc with the Mexican Ecological Green Party (PVEM) and the New Alliance Party (PANAL). But back then the PRI’s President Enrique Peña Nieto was still enjoying something of a honeymoon and was even able to build a “Pact for Mexico” with the opposition parties to push his agenda of further opening the oil and energy sectors to private investment (previously a taboo item in Mexico).
Now, the honeymoon is definitively over with with the recurrent spasms of narco-violence. And the PRI-led bloc lacks a majority in the Senate, which is not up for grabs in the current race. So even if minimally credible elections are held despite the endemic violence and protests, the PRI’s ambitions to rebuild its old hegemonic machine look like a very long shot—for better or for worse.