Thursday, March 16, 2006

STANFORD UNIVERSITY HOSTS SEMINAR ON THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: great quality, poor attendance

On Saturday, March 11, Stanford University hosted a seminar on the upcoming Mexican presidential election. There were three sessions: one on the role of the media, the keynote address by Enrique Krauze, and the electoral agenda of the (three main) political parties.

The morning session on the media was moderated by Leo Zuckerman (most famous for his column in El Universal and work on Radio Formula). Panelists included Marco Antonio Gomez (of IFE, the Federal Electoral Institute), Javier Corral (PAN senator), Martin Espinosa (radio Grupo Imagen), and Roy Campos (Consulta Mitofsky). It was the presentations by Campus and Krauze that were most profound, and merit separate entries on this blog.

The afternoon session was moderated by Stanford Professor Alberto Diaz-Cayeros who deserves high marks for keeping the discussion focused and on time. The PAN was represented by Federico Doring, the PRD by Saul Escobar, and the PRI by Roberta Lajous. Doring was content to repeat the PAN positions and quantify the nation's progress over the Fox sexenio. He largely ignored the other two panelists, and they ignored him. Lajous and Escobar traded barbs on issues such as crime and corruption. Both tried to do extreme makeovers on the perceptions of their candidates. Lajous tried to portray Madrazo as an experienced and competent former governor and dedicated internal reformer of the PRI. Escobar tried to portray the PRD as seeking to reduce Mexico's traditional, authoritarian corporate state mentality by adopting a more European Parliamentary governmental structure.

Questions from the audience were permitted. Some of them seemed like mini speeches, and none succeeded in raising any issues that the panelists could not address.

If there was one theme which could be found in all the presentations, it was that no one is making a confident prediction as to the outcome. Things are still fluid.

The presentations were in Spanish (except for some introductory remarks by Stanford Professor Larry Diamond) and very few people in the audience requested headphones for translation. Indeed, only about hundred people (mostly of student age) dotted the Kresge Auditorium.

This seminar was presented by "Mexicanos at Stanford" and the John S. Knight Fellowships for journalists and Yost House. Other sponsors included the Center on Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law, the Center for Latin American Studies, New Student Initiatives, Bechtel International Center, El Guiding Concilio, El Centro Chicago, Camacho Fund, Associated Students of Stanford University Speakers Bureau and United Airlines.

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