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AMLO re-loaded

28 June 2011

If you had told me in spring of 2007 that AMLO would still be such a relevant figure in the 2012 election, I don’t think I would have believed you.

Ganchoblog

Well, I won’t say “I told ya’ so”, but I have been writing on and off about AMLO as a relevant political figure since his presidential ambitions were thwarted in 2006. What surprises Patrick are two recent developments.  In Nayarit, AMLO is backing the PT candidate, not the PRD candidate, and speculation being bandied about by  El Universal’s political gossip column, Bajo Reserva, on a possible break between AMLO and his political protege, Marcelo Ebrard.

On the first point, Patrick quotes Aguachile , who huffs, “This is the true face of AMLO showing: A man who have absolutely no compunction about betraying his old party, as long as it benefits his own, highly personalistic project. ” Aguachile, who is a scholar of the PRD, soured on AMLO long ago, and I don’t think Patrick was ever a particular supporter (which is fine, him being a foreign correspondent and properly non-committal).

While I, of course, can’t vote in this country, not being a citizen, and barred from partisan activity, I was hoping for an AMLO victory in 2006, and admit I much preferred his economic and social programs to those of his opponents.    And, I’ve been somewhat in awe of his staying power and political skill.

Being effectively frozen out of the national media after the initial novelty of his alternative presidency wore off (and after the media was co-opted into wall-to-wall coverage of the “drug war”), López Obrador in some ways was advantaged as a politician.  Under the radar for the most part, he never stopped campaigning and organizing.  While several of those organizations were centered around single-issue campaigns (PEMEX privatization, the LyFC takeover), there is a national organization in place that stands outside party politics.

How well-organized AMLO’s people are, and how disciplined his own organization is, is a question I can’t answer.  Most of the propaganda I’ve seen appears to be produced by enthusiastic college kids or appears in relatively obscure “alternative” media,  and it’s difficult to gauge “on the groud support” here in the northwest where I live and where AMLO, let alone the PRD and other leftist parties, have never enjoyed a sizable voter base. What can be said is that, unlike the U.S. media created “tea party” which was designed to channel support to one of the two U.S. national parties, the unsatisfied voters are rejecting all the mainstream parties (and conventional political party politics in general), and AMLO — never mind that he’s been a party pol his entire adult life — seems to be the only candidate poised to take advantage of these disparate groups.

Should AMLO be a presidential candidate for a minor party (breaking with PRD), he doesn’t need to win or even win a sizable percentage of the national vote to have influence over the national agenda after 2012.    With proportional representation in the legislature, any single party for which he is the candidate that receives more than 2.5 percent of the national vote is guaranteed seats.  If he is able to form a coalition between a couple of minor national parties (PT and Convergencia) he’d more than likely hold off the threats of a minor party losing its registration.  It’s complicated, but parties which don’t receive a minimal number of votes in national elections lose their national registration — a death penalty in a country where elections are by party, and party funds are provided by the government based on their relative strength in national elections.

The second point — that AMLO “owes” the PRD his allegiance — doesn’t hold up.  Politicians change parties all the time, usually on the excuse that they are consistent and the party is not.  I saw Ronald Reagan’s 1962 statement, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Party left me”, recently quoted by a Guyanan politico, by the way. The late Gilberto Rincon was a Communist, several varieties of Socialist,  a PRD founder, a Social Democrat, and served in the Fox Administration during his long career, the party being not so important to him as the opportunity it provided him to push his agenda (which was the rights of the physically disabled and other minorities).

The PRD after all, was cobbled together out of several political parties, and mostly run by dissident PRI operatives (including AMLO).  In some sense, it has always been more a coalition than a unified party, and there really is nothing too odd in movement from one party within the broader leftist coalition to another.

Aguachile’s condemnation of AMLO comes from the politico’s backing of a PT-Convergencia candidate in the Nayarit governor’s race, over the PRD candidate.  In a sense, this is trying to have it both ways — AMLO is a declared candidate for the PRD presidential nomination, but is looking at a run on a PT-Convergencia (or either one of those two parties) ticket as well.  That AMLO, and his supporters, have basically taken over those two smaller parties was quite a coup, considering the PT, while ostensively a Maoist party, was said to have been organized by Carlos Salinas to create a weak leftist party under his control.  Turning it into a more or less democratic socialist party, and pulling in support from the other social democrats (or working with them) isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It’s somewhat unorthodox to seek two party’s nominations simultanously, but makes sense, given both the likelihood of fusion tickets, and the very real sense that the PRD compromises with PAN in state elections have not always benefited the left (as here in Sinaloa where a PAN-PRD coalition captured the governorship and the municipal presidency in Mazatlan, but you wouldn’t know PRD had anything to do with it from the way the PAN leaders are governing).   There is some concern that some in the PRD, attributing their loss in 2006 to appearing “too leftist” might be tempted to present a more “moderate” candidate than they could in an attempt to pull in some PAN voters.  And, as I said above, winning the presidency is not always necessary for a party (or a faction) to pursue its political agenda.

I was convinced last election that AMLO was going to win in a close election (and I think I was right, but…well… you know).  This time, I tend to doubt it, but if there is a crowded field (of four or five main candidates), he might do well enough to remain a factor for another six year.

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