Nothing changes in Mexico… until it changes
(attributed to Porfirio Díaz)
Did the election change anything? I’m afraid my vantage point was my kitchen window (looking down into my neighbor’s garage, which was a polling station), PREP data (the official vote counts which started coming in about 8 PM, and I stopped looking at 1 AM) and various news reports.
My take-away… yes and no.
As Jan Martínez Ahrens reports for El País, the PRI is still in control of the federal legislature… although it has lost somewhere around a dozen seats, its ally, the Greens, has picked up around 14. In theory, this strengthens the PRI, but with the wide-scale scandals surrounding the Greens’ flaunting of the election laws (and growing demand that the party be stripped of its registration, or more severely sanctioned), the PRI risks losing even more credibility by its close association with the Greens, and individual Greens may defect to other parties, or be the find themselves the scapegoats for whatever the next scandal to be uncovered within the legislature might be.
PAN … which is in the middle of its own ideological fight over party leadership (between the Madero and Calderón factions) … returns to its normal 20 percent or so of the electorate. Where there has been the biggest shake-up is in the PRD, which has dropped from its normal 15 to 20 percent to a mere 11 percent. Picking up the slack on the left has been Morena (López Obradór’s new party) which looks to have about 10 percent of the vote, too.
While Morena is more a populist than a leftist party (in includes some on the far right, who simply are attracted by Morena’s calls for austerity in the budget and its nationalist vision), it has a claim to be the “authentic” voice of the Mexican left, and … assuming PRD will join with Morena (and Morena, more than likely with the Workers’ Party — which seems to have squeaked by with enough support, sometimes in coalition with PRD, to maintain its registry as a party) and the Citizens’ Movement (like PRD, originally a dissident faction within PRI, vaguely leftist, though led more by the rural middle-class than the PRD’s Mexico City intelligentsia), one can imagine another fractious left-wing coalition within the next Chamber of Deputies and Senate.
One of the surprises of the night… Social Encounter’s much stronger than expected showing looks like it means it will be registered as a permanent party, and will have a few seats in the legislature… will need to be a junior partner in one of the oppositions… that of PAN or the left is to be determined.
And, of course, with the PRD largely discredited in much of its traditional strongholds (like Guerrero), whether it would be to the benefit of a leftist coalition to have the more opportunistic pols from the old left joining the (not new, but re-newed) left is a problem to be resolved.
Within Mexico City, Morena did exceedingly well, though its candidates were, for the most part, just recycled PRD and other party switchers (our incoming Jefe de Delegación, Ricardo Monreal, was the governor of Zacatecas for PRD, then a Workers’ Party Senator for a six years, and now a Morena leader for Delegacion Cuauhtémoc), gaining five to seven delegacion leaderships and about a third of the District Assembly seats. PRD, or PRD in coalition with the Workers’ Party, gained most of the rest, a few remaining in PAN or PRI hands.
Always aware that the left here tends to form a circular firing squad, it does look as Mexico is back to where it normally is… with PRI (though now operating through the Greens and the Alliance as partners) with about 40-45 percent of the vote, PAN with out 20 to 25 percent, and the fractured left with about a third.
So… nothing changed. Until it did.
The foreign media has been somewhat gaga over “El Bronco” (Jaime Rodriquez) who blew away both PAN and PRI to win election as the independent governor of Nuevo Leon. However, with Rodriquez having spent his long political career as a PRI-ista, and his slick campaign (notable mostly for its saavy use of social media) whether he is really an “independent” as claimed, or simply notable (like Vicente Fox) for mastering a new campaign style, is something that has yet to be determined. It is notable that independents and minor party candidates (from Social Encounter) won municipal presidencies in Nuevo Leon as well. Soccer legend Cuauhtémoc Blanco was elected Presidentee Municipal of Cuernavaca on a local party ticket, overwhelming his PRI and PAN rivals. Another independent, Sinaloan Manuel Clouthier Carrillo won election to the Chamber of Deputies. Clouthier Carrillo is, of course, the son of PAN’s greatest leader (who turned what had been a cranky rightist party into a genuine conservative opposition), Manuel de Jesús Clouthier del Rincón.
The younger Manuel quit PAN (as did his sister) in protest against the party’s return to its far-right (as opposed to conservative business) roots and its willingness to make deals with PRI. I have qualms about “independents”… wondering if they aren’t beholden — if not to factions within their old parties (like “El Bronco”) than representing as much their own financial interests (Clouthier is a very wealthy man, and owner of the Noroeste media chain in Sinaloa) as the voters to whom they appeal. Still, a shakeup is a change.
Despite desperate pleas from the left and right to vote, if only to prevent the PRI from maintaining control of the political system, it’s becoming clear that the old system, even the so-called “reformed democracy” that has allowed for multi-party elections, is not meeting everyone’s needs. Turnout, while higher than was feared (probably about 45 to 50%) was relatively low for such a controversial and multi-candidate election. The percentage of “null” votes (ballots left empty or purposely defaced) was relatively high… polling better nationally than at least four of the ten parties. There were overt calls to boycott the election, and in a few communities it appears the elections could not be held, it looks as if the system is here to stay… until it changes. Which, it just might.
Whether the people are satisfied with the results of this election, there is growing consensus in the idea — as formulated by Juan Antonio Crespo — that Mexico is a multi-party state, but not a multi-party democracy: that the Greens are just the PRI under a different label; that the independent candidates are not independent of outside interests differing from those of the candidate’s constituents; that the cost of the elections with 10 parties and any number of independents is more an investment in political parties and political advertising than in doing the people’s business.
And that nothing has changed… until …
Sources: PREP data, El País, Proceso, LaJornada, Noroeste, Vice, El Universal, Televisa.