With no party backing, very little funding and nothing in the way of political experience, Pedro Kumamoto’s candidacy for the Jalisco Congress seemed nothing more than a symbolic gesture.
Yet the 25-year-old independent has stunned the political establishment by winning the election for Zapopan’s district 10, a large chunk of the western metropolitan area that includes Andares mall, Plaza del Sol and the Parque Metropolitiano. Kumamoto almost doubled the votes of his nearest rival, despite running a campaign that cost less than 250,000 pesos (US$16,000), a tiny fraction of the money spent by the parties. His victory so blindsided the political mainstream that one opinion poll had not even included him in its study.
Kumamoto’s campaign emphasized openness and citizen participation. He was the first candidate in Jalisco to make his assets public through the transparency platform “3de3” and was found to possess 38,700 pesos (US$2,489 dollars) and a car given him by his father. A central proposal of his campaign was combating corruption by making the program obligatory for all public servants and candidates.
It is likely that Kumamoto’s success may inspire other independents, challenging the authority of political parties, which are privileged by public funding and exclusive access to TV spots. Yet Kumamoto is less interested in future candidates than inspiring citizen participation.
“We want to involve people in the day to day running of things,” he told the Mexican Labyrinth. “Not just for a vote that happens every three years but in constant participation with public space and policies.”
To aid this process, Kumamoto has promised to give up 70 percent of his salary to finance “diagnostic” consultations, where his constituents will be able to raise issues and present concerns which will then be examined by political technicians.
He takes the example of a community infested by mosquitoes. Analyzing the problem with technicians, his team might discover that the source of the problem is a flooded river. A “diagnosis” would then be made appropriate to the situation.
The fresh-out-of-college politician is constantly emphasizing citizen involvement, being himself a founding member of Wikipolitica, a grassroots campaign movement aimed at making Mexico a more democratic society.
His election reflects widespread disillusionment with the state of Mexican politics, as voters enthusiastically turn to a candidate untainted by the political mainstream.
The night of his victory in Zapopan’s Glorieta Chapalita, Kumamoto addressed the cheering crowd of supporters.
“We have broadened the horizons of what they said was possible. We have broadened them, not so we can form pacts with political parties but to broaden our rights, our influence, and our participation,” Kumamoto said. “We must make demands based on our needs. We don’t need a democracy that invites our participation every three years but one that is liberating, where our voice is heard.”