It sounds like the typical hardball, American-style campaign. The presidential candidate from the incumbent’s party calls the front-runner a “liar” in television and Internet advertisements. Supporters of the front-runner retaliate with a Web site and Twitter posts that say his top opponent “lies.” And the third-place candidate wraps the gaffes of both of them into a YouTube video cheekily titled “Excuses Not to Debate.” State-of-the-art, no-holds-barred political warfare, perhaps, except that after President Felipe Calderón narrowly won a divisive race here six years ago that featured ads calling his opponent a danger to the country, Mexico’s political establishment had vowed that it would tolerate no more of that.
But a law passed in 2007 that was intended to keep campaigning orderly and clean — it bans the Mexican equivalent of political action committees, limits spending, regulates language in advertisements and tightens the official campaign period to just 89 days — has been undercut by the unpredictable and uncontrollable Web.
On Web sites and in the online social media, a parallel battlefield has emerged as candidates vie for the support of voters, more than a quarter of whom, polls say, have not made a choice as the July 1 election nears. Many of the undecided are part of the fast-growing bloc of young middle-class Mexicans who tend to be more politically independent and may prove pivotal in determining the country’s next president.