only one party with substantial support in all regions -- the
Liberal Party in Canada and the PRI in Mexico. These parties have
been governing for most of the recent past -- the Liberals for
28 of 38 years since 1968, the PRI from 1929 to 2000 -- and both
have been beset by corruption.
have left-wing parties to which voters have not been willing to
entrust their national governments -- the New Democratic Party
in Canada, the PRD in Mexico. Both have right-wing parties often
criticized for being too pro-free market and too pro-U.S. -- Conservatives
in Canada and PAN in Mexico.
has the Bloc Quebecois, on the ballot only in Quebec. The right
and left parties also have limited geographic appeal. Conservatives
win few votes in Quebec, and the NDP runs third outside a few
metro and mining areas, while Mexico's PAN is weak in southern
Mexico and the PRD is weak in the north.
the Liberals have impressive advantages -- wide geographic reach,
a seasoned leader in Prime Minister Paul Martin, an economy that
has been growing impressively and greater acceptance in possibly
separatist Quebec. But they also have scandal problems, including
revelations that an anti-separatist ad campaign in Quebec set
up by then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien funneled hundreds of millions
of dollars to well-connected Liberals. More recently, there has
been a criminal investigation of alleged insider trading involving
Finance Minister Ralph Goodale.
the Liberals led Conservatives in popular votes by 37 percent
to 30 percent, but won only a plurality of seats and had to govern
with support from the NDP. Recent polls show the two parties tied
or Conservatives ahead, and there are enough seats within their
reach for them to form a government with the Bloc Quebecois.
trump card is anti-Americanism: He pointedly refused to cooperate
with the United States on missile defense and got into a verbal
spat with the U.S. ambassador. He has charged that the Conservatives'
Stephen Harper has a "hidden agenda" -- code words for
suggesting he's a clone of George W. Bush.
the leader in the polls could be even more hostile to the United
States. The PRD's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has won wide popularity
as mayor of Mexico City and is running on the platform of "the
poor first." President Vicente Fox tried to have him declared
ineligible, but backed down.
how far Lopez Obrador would retreat from the market policies of
Fox and his PRI predecessors Ernesto Zedillo and Carlos Salinas
de Gortari. But Fox, with no PAN majority in the Congreso, has
been unable to open up the oil industry to foreign investment
and has sharply criticized the Bush administration and Congress
for not allowing easier immigration. Lopez Obrador and Roberto
Madrazo, the PRI candidate with longtime ties to old machine politics,
would most likely be even more critical. PAN candidate Felipe
Calderon, from a different faction of the party than Fox, has
been rising in polls, but might be critical, too.
So the prospect
is for rhetorically hostile governments in our two neighbors.
Even if Harper and Calderon win, they will probably lack legislative
majorities, and they will have to deal with the chattering classes
in Toronto's Rosedale and Mexico City's San Angel who, like their
counterparts in Georgetown, reflexively oppose U.S. foreign policy
and ooze with contempt for Bush.
1990, Canada's Brian Mulroney and Mexico's Salinas strengthened
ties with the United States. Those days are gone. But neither
country seems about to give up the economic benefits of NAFTA
or to join Fidel Castro or Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. We might not
like our neighbors' campaign rhetoric, but we can live with the