Mexico’s Presidential Election

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Mexico ‘s presidential votes are being reviewed. We’ll talk about the importance of this election to the future between the United States and Mexico

José Cardenas:
Good evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. Welcome to Horizonte. Mexico 's presidential votes are being reviewed. We'll talk about the importance of this election to the future between the United States and Mexico . A new policy brief takes a closer look at Arizona 's English language learners.

José Cardenas:
The presidential election is called the closest race in history. An official count is under way with many in Mexico left waiting and wondering who will lead their country. Felipe Calderon is considered to be the conservative candidate. And Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the revolutionary party is considered the leftist candidate. Both have declared victory in a race too close to call. With us to talk about this election and the impact of the candidate who wins is Dr. Roy Nelson from Thunderbird, the Garvin School of International Management. Also Luis Ramirez, president of Ramirez Advisors International and on the board of directors of the Arizona Mexico Commission and the Border Trade Aliance. Thank you for joining us. Dr. Nelson, let's start with just reviewing who the three principal candidates are and the parties they represent and where they are in the political spectrum.

Dr. Roy Nelson:
Sure. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from the PRD, as you mentioned, is the former mayor of Mexico City , very popular as mayor. That is a source of his political support. Mexico City .

José Cardenas:
You have a picture of him on the screen.

Dr. Roy Nelson: Excellent.
He's definitely the leftist candidate, from the political party that has traditionally been associated with public works projects, government spending, that sort of approach to economic policy. The other leading candidate, Felipe Calderon, is definitely a more business oriented candidate. The Pon traditionally has been more in favor of market oriented approaches to policy. Calderon himself, his background, he has a master's degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy school of government and was former secretary of energy in the current president's administration, so he would pursue a more market oriented business friendly style in policy making. Then finally, Roberto Medrasso, from the Pre-party is in an interesting situation. The Pre historically was a more leftist economic nationalist party that pursued government interventionist sorts of policies, but in the 1980's, it start add shift toward a more market oriented approach, and now it finds itself split between more market oriented supporters and people who support more the traditional populist style economic policies.

José Cardenas:
It was the Pre that had controlled the presidential elections for 70 years.

Dr. Roy Nelson:
It was the party formed after the Mexican revolution and essentially controlled the Mexican political system for basically 71 years until finally we saw an opposition candidate from the Pon, the current president, winning for president in 2000.

José Cardenas:
Tell us where we are right now. I realize that by the time this show airs tomorrow night, Thursday, things may have changed, but as of Wednesday evening where are we?

Luis Ramirez:
The results are literally changing by the minute. For those people logged on to the internet checking the results they are literally changing as we speak. As of the taping of the show, the results are that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was slightly up perhaps as much as two points with about 75% of the votes recounted over Felipe Calderon, but as I said, literally every minute there's a phone call as we are walking into the studio, I heard there was actually a reversal of that and that in fact Calderon was once again ahead with about 80% of the votes recounted. So this is so close. Also there's a bit --

José Cardenas:
Election night Calderon was up just over 1%.

Luis Ramirez:
Which represented about 400,000 votes, give or take, but in terms of the recount I think there's been a little bit of strategy taking place because you saw at the beginning of the recount Lopez Obrador taking a lead on the count, but they were counting the areas where he had a significant advantage. You were still waiting as of taping we're still wait the recounts in Chihuahua , Baja , California .

José Cardenas:
Northern states.

Luis Ramirez:
Northern states on behalf of the Pon. That's why literally it's changing by the minute depending which boots are being tallied during the recount process.

José Cardenas:
What do you make of the clAIMS of victory on Sunday night?

Dr. Roy Nelson:
That was a really interesting phenomenon to watch. The electoral authority came out and said we cannot proclaim anyone a victor at this point. Almost immediately after that, Lopez Obrador said, we have won the election and the festivities should begin. Immediately after that, just a few minutes after he made that pronouncement Calderon basically said the same thing. I think what we're seeing here is the strong desire on the part of both candidates to win, and I think they are sort of gaming the outcome right now. They want to make sure that the votes are counted properly, that no one tries to proclaim victory without having adequate study of these votes and ballots counted properly. That's what I think we're seeing happen right now.

José Cardenas:
What's the process from this point in time, Wednesday was the first time they started counting as I understand, until we have a winner?

Luis Ramirez:
The first recount because we have the fast results as they were called on July 2. They were too close to call. Therefore EFA the federal electoral college of Mexico , or institute, not college. College is on this side of the border, but they were doing the first recount of the votes to be concluded by July 9 in which they will then announce based on the recount who came ahead on the total tally. If there are any clAIMS by either party significant type whether it's fraud or improper counting or people completed a ballot inappropriately, then if there's going to be a challenge to the results announced by --

José Cardenas:
Would have to be of sufficient stature to perhaps change the result.

Luis Ramirez:
Yes, but I think all the posturing you've seen in the past few days, both -- primarily the PRD has really been positioning the argument up front that they are looking at an x number of million votes that have not been counted, as many as 3 million based on some estimates, which there were some technical issues with the ballots themselves that had to be recounted or to make sure they were actually counted.

José Cardenas:
Actually, the PRD was saying 3 million missing ballots, but that proved not to be the case.

Luis Ramirez:
That was inaccurate. EFA has admitted there were 2.6, 2.8 ballots that have to be recounted because they were not included in the original count because of whatever technical issues that happened with them. They have admitted to it. They are going to recount and they will be tallied by July 9.

José Cardenas:
So they will announce a winner?

Luis Ramirez:
They will announce who had the most votes.

José Cardenas:
And further processes and deadlines for court challenges and official declaration.

Luis Ramirez:
September 6. About 45 days or so after -- actually a little bit more than that, about 60 days after the count, the courts and the final decision will be made on the elections. But what happens between July 9 and September 6, so much is going to happen whether it's physical recounts ballot by ballot of these 42 million ballots, then all the legal challenges that could happen by any of the parties, I think there's a lot to be seen of what's going to happen between now and September 6.

José Cardenas:
Dr. Nelson, presumably there will be a lot happening between now and September 6. Most outside observers, all I can think of have said this is one of the cleanest, most transparent elections Mexico has ever had. The system has held up as a model for other countries, yet you have the candidates at least Obrador suggesting that he may not be satisfied with the determination Sunday that says he's the loser.

Dr. Roy Nelson:
Right. I think there has been a history in the past, of course, with fraud in Mexican elections, but as you said, by everyone's account, the changes in place for the last ten years have made these Mexican elections probably the least likely to be fraudulent anywhere in the developing world. So I think that Lopez Obrador has had a history of calling for demonstrations or these kinds of things when there have been fraudulent elections in the past. I think in this case he's more -- his more pragmatic side will take over and he will realize it won't do him any good to pursue that approach. That would be my guess under these circumstances, and after all, there is another election in six years. So I think he will be thinking about that.

José Cardenas:
The party leaders and heads of the tickets may be willing to abide by the official count; some of their supporters may not. We talked about that a little bit before coming on the set. What's your observation there in terms of what you think people are going to do?

Luis Ramirez:
Unfortunately I somewhat disagree with that statement because on July 2, Lopez Obrador within minutes of the declaration by EFA that the vote was too close to call, he gets up in front of national and international media and says not as a question or a thought, I think we won, he said, we won by 500,000 votes. So whether originally I would have perceived the grass roots of the PRD would be the one opposing results, I think Lopez has been drawing that line in the sand saying, I have won. Now it's up to you to prove I didn't win. That's a very different debate rather than sitting back to see what EFA will come out with results. I thing one of the biggest concerns I have had in the past couple of days, last 36 hours, has been the beginnings of demonstration and people holding signs in the streets. There's clAIMS of people declaring death for my vote, and that willingness and passion for the results. We all want to encourage democracy, but do you want to encourage that extreme position? You're not willing to accept that you lost the election? I'm not saying who won or lost. I'm just saying the PRD is really drawing that line in the sand at least publicly.

José Cardenas:
I want to talk a little bit about the issues of stability short term and long term, but Luis, give us a quick summary of the results of the congressional elections and gubernatorial elections.

Luis Ramirez:
I think that's where actually the biggest surprises happened, but it's been so overshadowed by the top position, but the Pon now holds according to results a plurality. They hold the largest share of the house and chamber of deputies. To me that is very significant. They do not have an absolute majority, so as we were talking about before, they aren't going to be able to ram through any policy, but they do have a sufficient enough block of votes both in the senate and in the chamber of deputies. I think what is going to be interesting to see as these negotiations or these behind the scenes negotiations of whether they will be able to build some type of coalition or if it's going to be the PRD and the Pre. What ended up being the third place finisher which everyone thought a couple years that the Pre would be the automatic winner. There's also -- elections in four states and we heard a lot of commentary that it would be the PRI, the old party in power that would be taking over these gubernatorial offices and that's not the case. Two states the candidates won by sufficient enough majority so they are not contested elections.

José Cardenas:
Dr. Nelson, the stability question. The initial commentary, especially on the Mexican side, commentators I saw over the weekend were stressing how this was an example of Mexico 's maturation as a democratic country. Now you're hearing more and more the fact that it is so divided is a problem. What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Roy Nelson:
First of all, I think that Lopez Obrador did say in the end he would respect the final decisions. I think it would just play into his opponent's hands to really make too much of a ruckus about this if it does seem to be the case they will come down on the side of one candidate, the other candidate. At the same time I think whoever ends up with the presidency will have a difficulty in governing, will have difficulty in implementing major reforms that Mexico needs in the coming years. So I think that this polarization will be something that --

José Cardenas:
You don't see anyone taking to the streets or the army getting involved.

Dr. Roy Nelson:
No. I think if Lopez Obrador is a pragmatic person, which I think he is, he will recognize that would only result in a backlash politically against him and would play into his opponent's clAIMS that he's like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela , more radical.

José Cardenas:
The suggestion has been the reason for Calderon's resurgence in the polls -- he was trailing -- he started a campaign, a dirty campaign in some eyes, linking Obrador to Chavez.

Dr. Roy Nelson:
Exactly.

José Cardenas:
Is that the kind of president that Obrador would be?

Nelson:
Well, I don't think Lopez Obrador would be like Hugo Chavez at all. Structurally he would not be in a position to ram through the kinds of radical changes that Hugo Chavez has done in Venezuela . His party, it would be a minority party. He would not have that same ability to do what Chavez has done, and I don't think he himself is that sort of person. I think he's more of a pragmatic. He definitely is on the left, in favor of more government spending. It may be irresponsible from a fiscal perspective, but the sort of radical extremes we have seen in Venezuela I don't think you would see.

José Cardenas:
What kind of president would Filipe Calderon be in terms of the United States ?

Luis Ramirez:
There's an expression I have seen and heard is that he will continue with the Foxismo. At least the same direction we Vicente Fox has established for the Mexican economy, trying to foster stronger ties with the U.S. economically speaking, diversifying Mexico 's trade relationships with Asia and Europe . Mexico continues to be the lead country in the world in terms of free trade agreements negotiated and signed with --

José Cardenas:
Both candidates have at least in their campaigns said one point of difference, a significant one, Obrador says he would renegotiate now because he thinks Mexico has suffered. Calderon has said he would not. What do you think would happen depending on who is president?

Luis Ramirez:
I think the realities are that the free trade agreement has been ratified by the U.S. Mexican congress and the Canadian parliament, ratified as a whole. I don't think there's any provisions within the NAFTA agreement that allow renegotiation on any one issue unless you open up the entire agreement. I don't think any country wants to renegotiate a treaty that is literally 2 to 3,000 pages thick.

José Cardenas:
On that point we have to end. Thank you for joining us. Dr. Nelson from thunderbird, Luis Ramirez from international consultants. Thank you.

José Cardenas:
Governor Napolitano has been advocating for adequately funding the state's English language learners program which has been an issue of contention between her and legislative leaders. A new publication gives us a profile of what the population is and how they are doing. Brian Owin is here from ThinkAZ. Thanks for joining us. Before we get into this I should note that I am council for the state in the Flores case, which involves English language learning funding. tell us just a little bit more about what ThinkAZ is.

Brian Owin:
It's a public policy research institute primarily founded to provide impartial and accurate information to key community leaders, interested members of the community and of course state lawmakers.

José Cardenas:
How is it you came to focus on it as an area much inquiry?

Brian Owin:
The lawsuit. Unfortunately right now in Arizona the ELL standards data election is very young. What's happening is we don't have a really good way to get good, meaningful information at a very general localized source. I had to go into specific districts and spend a lot of time going through data and cleaning data, matching data sets to get meaningful information.

José Cardenas:
As I understand it's a sizable database.

Brian Owin:
About 60,000 students.

José Cardenas:
Tell was the principal findings were of the study.

Brian Owin:
One of the major key findings when I looked at the amount of time ELL students are spending in a program and how their AIMS performance seems to be progressing.

José Cardenas:
The high stakes graduation test.

Brian Owin:
Yes. Basically aligned to our state standards to measure academic performance. The most interesting finding and I think the most relevant is that in the first three years of an ELL program in grades 3 through 8 was the analysis and study test performance seems to increase in math, reading and writing. After the third year, however, you see some decline and stagnant gains. That's very, very meaningful to policy makers trying to come up with programmatic decisions. Bill 26, as you probably well know, had a funding provision that would have ceased funding after two years. There's clearly an added benefit to that third year in an ELL program.

José Cardenas:
As I understand it, there's also a test that the students are given to test out of the ELL program. What can you tell us about that and what your study determined?

Brian Owin:
Well, sub test in 2005, Stanford English language proficiency test. It's changing now, so some of my information is moot at this point. What I wanted to do was look at performance and see how students were doing. Those that passed those that didn't pass, how that related to their performance on AIMS. It's been a pretty highly debated whether that test has been a good measure of English proficiency. Some of the results of the study clearly show those who learn English are much more successful than those who don't. I wanted to see the relationship between passing that test and AIMS performance and there's a very strong relationship. Those that pass the test tend to do much better on AIMS.

José Cardenas:
You also had a correlation as I understand it between passage of the soap test and this third year cutoff point you mentioned before where the benefits from ELL seemed to decline.

Brian Owin:
Well, it's inconsistent and I probably need more research to explain it. What it looks like is that those beyond the third year in an ELL program tend to do just as well if not a little more poorly than those in the third year of a program but at the same time are more likely to pass the soap test, which is interesting given the fact that those who don't pass don't perform as well on AIMS. It sounds complicated. It's something I can't explain. It would take more research to do.

José Cardenas:
Other major findings in your study?

Brian Owin:
I also added mobility. I think that's really important, not something people are focusing on. Mobile students are not included in our state accountability system. It's clear from these data that I have here that ELL students tend to be more mobile, attend more schools in a given year and those do not perform as well academically as those who stay stable.

José Cardenas:
When you say ten more schools in a given year, more Arizona schools?

Brian Owin:
More Arizona schools. Unfortunately, the way our state collection system works I can't measure the out of state school attendance, just how many schools they have attended here in Arizona .

José Cardenas:
As I understand it one of the observations was that size of the ELL population is greater than previously reported.

Brian Owin:
Yes, 2005, the year of data that I have used, about 175,000 students, publicly reported 160,000, but there are several technical issues, but that's getting close to 20% of Arizona's student population. 80% are title ineligible. 85% speak Spanish. They tend to come in the earlier grades. 80% of Arizona 's ELL population is second poorest performing subgroup. Second only to Arizona special education population in almost all grades math, reading, writing, they have the second highest dropout rate in high school, second lowest graduation rate. That paints a picture that really doesn't seem to be getting its needs served in Arizona 's public schools. That's what the lawsuit is trying to focus on.

José Cardenas:
We have about a minute left. One of the observations was also if you disaggregate the data by year you have interesting anomalies.

Brian Owin:
Well, one of the really interesting findings especially given the controversy around the soap test, those who pass the English proficient. When you break that down by grade, you can actually see in third grade they start right with each other, then as a grade increases the gap gets wider. That tells me the older the students step out of an ELL program the farther behind their non-ELL counterparts they are.

José Cardenas:
Thank you for the information. I'm sorry we have run out of time.

Brian Owin:
Thank you.

José Cardenas:
For information on upcoming or previous shows visit our website at www.azpbs.org and click on Horizonte. You'll find all the information you need once you get there. That's our show for tonight. We hope you'll join us next Thursday. For all of us at Horizonte, have a good evening.

Dr. Roy Nelson: Thunderbird, the Garvin School of International Management;

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