In 2013, Morris, the Candigato (Cat Candidate) gained notoriety in Mexico’s social networks and news outlets after launching a successful online campaign via Facebook and Twitter, in a mock run for the position of Mayor of the city of Xalapa, Veracruz. The Candigato’s comedic slogans, such as “Tired of voting for rats? Vote for a Cat,” became popular among the online community and almost instantly his account on Facebook gained close to 250,000 followers. Morris, the Candigato, is a perfect reflection of Mexico’s idiosyncrasy: many Mexicans will laugh at their tragedies.
The online campaign lasted for two months and only cost as much as the registry for the web domain. Yet after the votes were counted, CNN reported that Morris had bested at least 3 of the 8 actual candidates running for office. The creators the Candigato were recognized by the Victory Awards, winning the “Best Political Innovator” during the 2014 Marketing Político en la Red (Political Online Marketing) Conference—an unusual selection for an award usually won by political consultants.
Unfortunately, while the Candigato’s online success may be amusing, it is also points to Mexican society’s apathy and callousness for its political leaders. Now Morris is back with a different mission.
In a similar strategy to Bill Maher’s #flipadistrict, the creators of the Candigato are once again using humor to raise awareness. This week, Morris announced that he would be organizing an awards ceremony to recognize the worst politicians in Mexico under three categories: worst governor, worst political career, and finally, “honorary sandbox,” for retired or deceased politicians.
While this online campaign obviously follows no official protocols or processes to denounce ineffective public officials, it is quickly and easily providing an open channel for frustrated constituencies in different parts of the country. Replies from the Candigato’s followers on Facebook and Twitter mention too many politicians to list, but Nuevo Leon’s governor, Rodrigo Medina, and the state of México’s governor, Eruviel Ávila, have gained repeated mentions. One Facebook user sarcastically commented, “I’m worried Morris will have a tough task ahead finding a winner. Maybe he should just declare a 32-way tie,” referring to the governors of all 31 states and the head of government in Mexico City.
The Candigato may be just another joke about Mexico’s corrupt and ineffective politicians, but it is notable that a social media campaign with no funding is able to obtain half of the write-in votes for a cat running for mayor of Xalapa. The effectiveness of the Candigato’s campaigns show the level of disapproval Mexican constituents have for the candidates proposed by formal political parties in Mexico.
With the Candigato Awards showcasing some of Mexico’s allegedly “worst” elected officials, we will see if this affects their future careers or if it just serves as comedic distraction. And as long as the political class in Mexico continues to have low credibility among many constituents, Mexicans will keep tragically laughing.