With only a little cash, young Mexican shakes up politics

By Yemeli Ortega ,AFP

MEXICO CITY — With just a few thousand dollars and an Internet-powered grassroots campaign, a 25-year-old Mexican of Japanese ancestry tapped into discontent with corruption-plagued political parties to make history in midterm elections. Pedro Kumamoto, nicknamed ��Kuma,�� is among a handful of independents who were elected in Sunday’s vote, the first that allowed candidates without parties to run for office since a 2014 reform. With a US$14,000 war chest financed with small donations he limited to no more than US$450, Kumamoto brushed aside rivals from well-financed and entrenched political parties to win a seat in the Jalisco state legislature in western Mexico. His supporters also offered sunscreen, water bottles and apples for the grueling door-to-door campaign in his hometown of Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second biggest city. ��It’s not about me. It’s not a candidacy based on personality,�� the broad-smiling Kumamoto, who favors casual clothes such as jeans and untucked shirts, told AFP in a telephone interview. ��It’s a candidacy that happened through social movements related to outrage with traditional politics, with political parties that haven’t worked correctly,�� said Kumamoto, who won 39 percent of the vote.

A Mexican Mini-revolution At least four other independents won in the elections for the 500-member lower chamber of Congress, hundreds of state legislatures and municipalities, and nine governorships. Their victories were seen as a protest vote against the country’s old parties in a country where a recent poll showed that 91 percent of people believe politicians are crooked. The biggest star of this Mexican mini-revolution was Jaime ��El Bronco�� Rodriguez, who became the first independent to win a governorship in the industrial northern state of Nuevo Leon. Another prominent independent, Manuel Clouthier, who won a federal Congress seat in Sinaloa, was once a member of the National Action Party and his father ran for president under the same banner. But what sets Kumamoto apart from the other independents is that he was never a member of a political party. Analysts say his surprising victory could be a model for aspiring independents. For political analyst Jose Antonio Crespo, Kumamoto’s victory is ��much more significant�� than that of Rodriguez or Clouthier. ��It’s surprising how he was able to defeat the parties with few resources and without previous political support,�� said Crespo of the Economics Research and Teaching Center. ��Many will study the Kumamoto case to try to reproduce it.��