Michael Barone

That's more or less what happened last Sunday in Mexico, at least as far as most American journalists (including me) are concerned.

That's a vivid contrast with the last three presidential elections in Mexico, which had enormous consequences for that country and for the United States.

I happened to be in Mexico on vacation in spring 1994 when Luis Donaldo Colosio, the candidate of the ruling PRI party, was assassinated. I listened to the radio broadcast as Ernesto Zedillo, speaking shakily, accepted the party's nomination to succeed him. As with every PRI candidate since 1929, he won the election in July.

In 2000, I was in Mexico to cover the election in which Vicente Fox, candidate of the center-right PAN party, was elected -- the first opposition victory in 71 years.

I was there as the PAN crowd was celebrating at the Angel of Independence statute on the Paseo de la Reforma. As they jumped up and down in rhythm to a classic Mexican song, I felt the earth move -- it turns out that the boulevard is built on spongy fill land that vibrates under stress.

And in 2006 I was in Mexico City as PAN candidate Felipe Calderon beat the left-wing mayor of Mexico City, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, by 1 percent of the vote. AMLO's followers protested the result for months, occupying the Reforma Boulevard and separating the capital in two.

These elections effectively ended the one-party rule of the PRI, whose very name -- the party of the institutional revolution -- suggested its peculiar nature.

It was established in 1929, after two decades of revolutionary violence. Each Mexican president would serve for a single six-year term, and in the last year would pick his successor -- put his finger, or dedazo, on him -- who would be nominated by the PRI. After a campaign of elaborate ceremony around the country, he would be routinely elected.

Bad things would tend to happen in each president's sixth year, or sexenio, and after he left office he would be reviled and in many cases would leave the country altogether.

The PRI system appealed to an Aztec sensibility, containing as it did elements of elaborate ceremony, calendrical regularity and (in the expulsion of the former president) human sacrifice.

For about 35 years, the PRI system worked tolerably well. Mexico's economy grew, and its centralized institutions -- the government-owned Pemex oil monopoly, the favored Televisa broadcasting network -- accommodated themselves to one handpicked president after another.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM