The President of Panem, Peeta Mellark (Liberty Party-District 12) is only a year and four months into his term as president. However, he’s already accomplished more in a year and a third than the disgraced and incarcerated Rick Canth did while he was president before him.
Which brings us to the questions that everyone is longing to ask, only to be halted because of the antiquated rule of “Thou shalt not speak of presidential elections until after the midterms:” Will Peeta Mellark see reelection, and is he destined to win reelection?
Of course, presidential elections are notoriously hard to predict. Hardly anyone predicted the election of Rick Canth in the House of Representatives, and likewise many did not believe that his fall would be so titanic. Elections that seem to be a runaway win for a candidate a year or two out can easily transform into close elections (see Everdeen Pt. 2) and ones that seem to be on razor-edge at the beginning can turn into massive landslides (see Mellark’s election/Canth’s defeat).
However, something must be said for the fresh and new President of Panem. Peeta Mellark is no fool; he did not rise as quickly as he did just to fall as quickly as he started. Mellark has strategically risen following the failure of Celine Oswald to win the presidency. Mellark, then the First Gentleman of Panem, plotted the beginnings of his political career in District 12, where the climate would be more friendly. The people of District 12 are in complete adoration of the Everdeen-Mellark family and all those associated with it. It is no surprise to see the success of Rebecca Tarson’s districtwide career when one factors in her friendship with the First Couple. As such, when Peeta Mellark became interested in the open Senate seat in District 12, the field cleared for him and he began his first foray into the world of politics. His success was due to a strong party structure, name recognition, and a large rolodex assembled by his wife’s previous campaigns for public office. Peeta Mellark won the Senate seat, becoming the new Senator-elect, and immediately got to work.
Mellark’s ascent in the Senate was as quick as his ascent in the political structure of District 12. His talent for public speaking and private conversation proved useful in the quick-moving Capitol, ensuring the passage of multiple key pieces of legislation. Mellark made history with his oratorical skills, delivering a twenty-nine hour filibuster on the use of District 12’s funds on the creation of the new Capitol that now holds the record for longest filibuster. His reputation became one of a leader on Capitol Hill, even as he did not hold a leadership role in the Senate. However, that changed when the majority leader, Michael Debroff (Liberty Party-District 13), sat him down in his office one day. Debroff was looking to make a change in leadership and had dismissed his Majority Whip only a week prior for insubordination. The majority leader offered this position to the new Senator from District 12, elevating a freshman to the number two position in Senate leadership.
Mellark’s reputation as a straight-shooter is well-documented. As Whip, Mellark kept the Liberty Party conference in line while taking over as Majority Leader when Debroff was unavailable. He was known for his no-nonsense attitude and efficient decisions. In one incident, Mellark began Senate proceedings on the hour as promised. Ten senators were missing and nearly missed the vote on a contentious funding bill and were not pleased- but Mellark all the same governed on a schedule. Be there, do your job, do it well, and do it on time.
His time in the Senate put him on a pedestal as a potential nominee for higher office. Following the defeat of Celine Oswald, the Liberty Party was in disarray on every level. The Liberty National Committee chair, Vance Irsine, insisted that his plan for the party was the correct plan- no other way would do. Oswald was defeated under him, and the largest movement against Liberty rule occurred in the midterms under President Canth. When it came time for the next presidential election, the field was wide open. It was supposed to be the time for Amy Oaksmith, the former runner-up to Oswald, to get to be the nominee. Some said Oswald should get another shot. Some said Descoteaux. However, all eyes turned to the junior Senator from District 12, only four years into his term, in order to see how he would play his hand.
Mellark played a royal flush. He declared his run for president to the surprise of LibNC officials who had urged him to remain out of the race in order to build prestige in the Senate. Forever undaunted, Mellark pushed through several debates, taking heated attacks on his image, particularly on his independence from his wife and on his inexperience. However, when it came down to it, Senator Mellark would win the nomination against four other high-profile opponents and would begin his general election campaign with his new running mate and dear friend: Governor Rebecca Tarson of District 12, who pulled off an upset of her own for her nomination. The general election campaign was the most bruising in history, but blows were glancing for the Liberty ticket: even when things seemed roughest for Mellark and Tarson, the ticket endured and always came out on top. In the end, the ticket would coast to the largest electoral and popular vote landslide in history, surpassing that of former President Katniss Everdeen, the wife of the new President.
Upon his inauguration, President Mellark noted in a candid interview that he had very little room for error. “After the damage that the last administration performed to our country, the people of Panem are looking for change. That’s what I’ve been elected to give to them, and if I don’t do that, I’ll pack my bags myself and leave. This country needs a change. That’s what my administration is going to do.”
That change has come. Even if you ask the Red-Green Coalition, the new opposition coalition between the Labor and Civic Parties which also serves as the President’s staunchest critics, the President has enacted change. For Liberty members, this change is exactly up their alley. For the left wing, not so much. The President has presided over tax and economic reforms; over a successful push for a better education system; and most recently, over the successful defeat of the Oceanian Empire. It’s hard to argue that the country is ascending instead of declining- just ask anyone how their personal economic outlook is and they will note that things have changed.
Of course it seems clear that the President would seek reelection. He’s young. He’s been successful thus far. And there’s no doubt of his popularity, which has swelled to nearly ninety percent following the success of the war in Oceania. All odds for now seem to be on Peeta Mellark running for reelection. Our second question, however, is who could possibly stand a chance? The other parties of Panem have significant issues with national elections. Frankly, it has become clear that the Panem public is not interested in electing Cecelia Paylor president once more after her first and only term. People are not excited for Felicia Ren despite her known quantity with Panem citizens. The Conservatives are almost to the point of extinction following the embarrassment known as the Canth family and the electoral massacre that occurred as a result of their familial run. So, who’s even remotely close to pulling a couple of votes away from the President?
One particular option is Panem’s newest political party. The Centre Party has not engaged in a national election as of yet, but following their massive success on the Congressional level and their major push into districtwide elections for the upcoming midterms, it’s highly probable that a Centre nominee for president and vice president will emerge. The viability of such a candidate is uncertain- centrists have not been a true force in Panem politics, at least not as a political party or movement. If a nominee is fielded, however, it would be good for a test run to run against Mellark.
The other option lies with Elizabeth Steinbeck and Pauline Crystal. The Steinbeck/Crystal ticket overperformed on election day, pulling into second in both the electoral and popular vote counts. Steinbeck’s previous run for the presidency was not as successful; she did not manage to get a single district win and did not break single digits. This past election was different: the country was looking for a change, and the populism championed by Steinbeck rang true for at least twenty-three percent of Panem citizens. It’s entirely possible that Steinbeck and/or Crystal runs again; Steinbeck has a way with reversing loyalties and promises and Crystal has nothing preventing a run. However, Steinbeck appears to be completely onboard with the President and his administration, especially when one notes that she passed over an opportunity to run against her archnemesis, Felicia Ren, again in District 8.
Regardless of the candidates, it appears (from less than three years out) that President Peeta Mellark will be president on that cold Inauguration Day. For now, no one quite holds a candle.