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Come together, right now?

6 December 2007

I changed one paragraph Friday when I re-read this. It sounded as if I’d said 2/3rds of voters chose AMLO. He received a bit over 1/3rd of the vote. What I meant was 2/3rds of voters chose candidates from “leftist” parties.

Carlos Narvarette, the PRD Senate leader, set off a “tempest in a teapot” the other day with what seems a sensible proposal (My translation from Propone Navarrete fusionar partidos en torno a AMLO, by Andrea Becerril, Víctor Ballinas and the Jornada on-line staff):


In advance of Senate consideration of federal election law reform, Carlos Narvarette, Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) Senate coordinator had proposed starting internal discussions within his own party, as well as with two leftist parties – the Workers’ Party (PT) and Convergencia – on a proposed merger.

“The proposal would unite the three parties included in the movement headed byAndrés Manuel Lopez Obrador”, Narvarette explained.

“This would give Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, and the movement he represents, a stronger organization and a way to create a single organization that could win against the right in 2009 or 2012,” he added.

Narvarette expanded on his proposal. He said he would hope that “the PRD would put their registry and the votes the part obtained in 2006 in the service of a larger movement, and join in a broad movement that could become a new party with its own identity.

Fusing the three parties, would move beyond [temporary] electoral coalitions, and an alliance “would not waste its time in discussing percentage, prerogatives or candidates.

Narvarette rejected the idea that there are those within the PRD looking to debilitate Lopez Obrador, stressing that no party on the left would undercut its own leadership.

People in the U.S. have a hard time understanding that the rest of the planet finds the concept of only two political parties (and both ascribing to the same economic ideology — liberal capitalism) kinda lame. The U.S. has its own political language, of course — “liberal” having something to do with whether gays should marry or whether one says “Happy Holidays,” or nonsense like that — not, as on the rest of the planet with open markets.

Anyway, Mexico — in common with other representational states — gives voters a wide choice. Admittedly, the PRI controlled politics for years, but even that party, ostenively Socialist, made room for various economic ideologies.

The Lopez Obrador supporters — which is what Narvarette is talking about is a little over one-third of the voters ) included the “wide” party, the PRD (more openly Socialist), the PRI, two social democratic parties (Convergencia and Alternativa) and PT — orignally Maoist, though more or less just another Socialist party. This doesn’t include small state and regional parties, like the reformed Communist Unidad Democrática in Coahuila.

PRD is usually described as “Center-Left” — but “Center-Left” would include about 2/3rds of the mexican electorate. PRD, like PRI is a member of Socialist International, but then, so is the British Labour Party… it doesn’t mean much more than a more emphasis on the need to “promote the general welfare” of the people, and sees the “blessings of liberty” as independent from one’s access to cash. I’m including the Greens, the “Social Democatic” Alternativa, and Nueva Alianza as “Center-Left”.

All the leftist parties pretty much accept the existence of capitalist enterprises, and most have no problem with them. Except for a few very tiny stalinist parties (associated with the Zapatistas, who discourge voting anyway), there’s enough ideological similarity between PRD, PT and Convergencia to make Narvarette’s proposal sensible.

Given Mexico’s proportional representation system (also alien to those of us in the U.S. — a party gaining more than two percent of the electorate is guaranteed at least a congressional seat) and fusion politics.

In the U.S. only a few states like Minnesota and New York, even have important minor parties. In those states, the minor parties usually back one of the two major party candidates for national office. The only recent exception I can think of was James Buckley’s election to the U.S. Senate in 1970, from New York’s third largest party, the Conservatives.

In Mexico, fusion candidates are common — and do win. Vicente Fox was elected on the “Change Alliance” ticket — his own PAN, together with the Greens and two now forgotten minor Social-Democratic parties (at least one being allegedly financed by the U.S. government). Cuautemoc Cardenas probably won in 1988 on the “Democratic National Front” candidate, and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as the “Benefit of All” leader.

PRI normally runs a fusion candidate with the Greens, even for state office, so it’s become the norm — rather than the exception — to run a fusion candidate. The only problem is that with the proportional system, the parties within a coalition have to work out an agreement over whose candidate leads the ticket — and horse-trade the proportional seats. Normally, the larger party ends up ceding a few seats in congress or the state legislatures to one of the minor parties to get them to agree to a temporary merger — a great deal for the minor parties, but in reality, it gives small parties almost a veto over broader consensus issues. The Greens might have joined Fox and PAN in the 2000 election, but Fox made a strategic error, and the Greens made their legislative alliance with PRi… basically making anything Fox proposed though PAN DOA for the next six years.

I think what Narvarette is proposing is to make the existing PRD-PT-Convergencia congressional alliance (Frente Amplio Progressiva — “Broad Progressive Front”) a single entity. Of course, there would still be factions within the new party (as there are within PRD, PRI and PAN now — think of all the different factions within either of the two U.S. parties for an analogy). Of course, the various factions within PRD (not to mention the two smaller parties) will probably doom this idea to the graveyard of “good plan, poor execution”.

Had “Benefit of All” run as a single ticket in 2006, we’d probably be writing about President Lopez Obradór… the horse-trading, compromises, etc. necessary to work out a multi-party deal probably did cost AMLO some votes and time — not to mention having to get a sign off from three different party leaders every time there was a major policy decision — that could have been spent countering single-party Felipe Calderón’s very good (though dirty) campaign.

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