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El CandiGato Morris (Morris, the cat-idate) is the nickname given to a black and white cat who has been nominated as the citizen’s candidate in the 2013 mayoral election in the city of Xalapa, Mexico. Running under the campaign slogan “For a Xalapa Without Rats,” referring to the notoriously corrupt politicians and police in the region, the cat quickly gained popularity in Spanish-speaking social media and the attention of the Mexican news media, even raising some concerns about electoral abstentionism.
On May 4th, 2013, two young men from the state of Veracruz set up a Facebook fan page for their cat under the pseudonym “candigatomorris”. According to a Mural interview, one of the owners who works as a graphic designer used the fanpage to publish some propaganda for the campaign, including some stickers pasted on citizens’ cars. The objective of this propaganda was to mock Mexican politicians and their campaigns, pointing out their laziness and distance from the people, and that anybody can make the vague promises they make. The fan page has since been used to promote campaigns against animal cruelty, and to spread public denouncements about current government actions.
Some of the more notable campaign slogans include:
“Due the large amount of rats seeking office, only a cat can bring order.”
“Tired of voting for rats? Vote for a cat!”
“Xalapa is ready to vote for a different kind of animal!”
“I can sleep in the Chamber of Deputies too!”
“Like all good cats: when I make a crap, I actually bury it, and I don’t walk around showing off my ‘prizes’.”
Precursor: Stubbs, the Cat Mayor in Alaska
Morris’ candidacy resembles a case that occurred in 1997, when the citizens of the town of Talkeetna, Alaska declared a tabby cat named Stubbs as the honorary mayor. The cat has since become a tourist attraction. The administrator of the Stubbs fan page got notice about the existence of Morris campaign, and wrote a message supporting and congratulating the idea in the ‘cat-didate’ fan page.
Some time later, a fan of the ‘cat-idate’ created a Twitter account for the cat (@ CandiGato), and the owner reacted by proposing the hashtag #ElCandiGatoMorris for the campaign. He also asked to the creator of the Twitter account to contact him, but as he didn’t, the latter created another ‘official’ account (@ OfficialMorris). More recently, they proposed the hashtag #yeswecat. The owners also registered a domain and created a webpage (elcandigato.com) with works made by themselves and posted by fans in the Facebook page. The page was initially promoted among a circle of friends, but it quickly called the attention from more Facebook users in the city.
The authors claimed they hoped to get 1000 likes, but that amount was easily reached, and ironically, the fan page has been receiving much more likes than the rest of the fan pages for official candidates. This is because of the attention and sympathy the campaign got from people around other cities and countries.
News Media Coverage
The unexpected case soon attracted the attention of several local and national media, that reported the beginning and rise to fame of the campaign. Among the news portals that reported the event are SDPNoticas, Milenio, El Universal, Yahoo Mexico, Univision and Proceso. There have been reports even from media in other languages, like CNN, The Huffington Post, and www.lexpress.fr.
In response to this phenomena, additional “cat-idates” have appeared from cities that are going to hold election this July in the same country, they haven’t got the attention Morris got though.
Electoral Abstinence in Mexico
The campaign has been accused of promoting the electoral abstinence, a constant problem in Mexican politics. In all elections in Mexico, the ballots include a special space for write-in candidates which are legally eligible. But, this space of often used to cast votes for celebrities or fictional characters. Additionally, many people do not turn out to vote.
Official candidates has reacted to Morris campaign. The candidate for the PAN (National Action Party) confessed that he suspected the campaign was begun by his adversary, the PRI (Institutional and Revolutionary Party) candidate, in order to encourage free electors to nullify their votes and keep bought votes advantage. The candidate for the PRI has confessed that these events are symptom of the lack of inspiration from candidates and politicians.
Electoral authorities have concluded that these events will convince a large amount of people to cast votes for the cat, and publicly called on the population to abstain voting for the cat.
The fan page responded by saying that it is not promoting abstention, but rather that it is promoting political protest, and that nullifying a vote and abstention are different acts that have different consequences.