Democratic ways and means are only one method among many other options: popular assemblies, delegate conventions, surveys, or primaries. Even what in Mexico is denominated as dedazo (a term used to describe Mexican politicians who in the 20th century were able to hand pick their successor) is valid, although Javier Aparicio’s magnificent article in Excelsior gives me doubt (El dedazo iluminado). I insist, as political parties are, above all, a means to ascend to power, their main objective to secure is winning office. From a pragmatic perspective, the best method is that which maximizes the probability of winning.
What is inadmissible is fooling people. What irritates me is insulting the party members and the general public’s intelligence with rhetoric about a method without credibility, or attempting to pass a method which is not democratic as if it were. There was no need for this. Andrés Manuel López Obrador could have asked Morena’s party leadership in Mexico City to declare that, after a thoughtful deliberation within the party, their party nominee would be Claudia Sheinbaum.
What is not yet clear is if López Obrador had considered in his personal candidacy selection method the consequences of his decision. I do not see his leadership at risk. What is visible on the horizon is the possibility of Ricardo Monreal ‘trying his luck’ and not falling in line. The possibility exists that he mobilizes his followers in the Cuauhtémoc borough and uses its resources against Morena, dividing their vote and making it easier for the opposition to win. It is not a small thing. In the borough he commands, there are 481,939 voters, and Monreal won that office from the PRD-PT-PANAL coalition in 2015 by a seven percentage point margin. Since then, he has created an important clientele, and he manages the not insignificant amount of 3 billion pesos from its budget.
And Monreal does not seem conformed and disciplined as the other losing candidates who, as soldiers, did not ask for an explanation. They complied.
His words are revealing and are very similar to what his leader has taught him, and they perfectly describe their life’s philosophy: I quote two of them. “I am one of those old ones, that offers his word and fulfills it, unless there is no other remedy” and “we’re going to do what the people want and decide.” To conclude, he warns that “this chapter is not closed; the history of Mexico City is yet to be written.” As has happened in previous campaigns, López Obrador makes mistakes that when summed up showcase him as an authoritarian leader. He tangles himself in such a way that in the end his credibility as a potential democratic leader is tarnished. It makes it impossible to think of him as a ruler that believes in deliberation, in debate, in transparency, in the principle of maximum disclosure, in institutions, in criticism, and in negotiation, which by definition fortunately characterize democracy.
If for the election of his party’s candidate to the Mexico City government, he banned debate, repressed deliberation, impeded transparency, rejected disclosure (even expost), used ad hoc “institutionality,” silenced criticisms, and denied negotiations, then what can be expected of his decision making if he becomes President? López Obrador only believes in himself and the infallibility of his decisions. It follows that he asks his supporters for a blind trust in him and absolute discipline. He asks them to suspend any critical judgement because there is no one better than him to know what to do, with whom to do it with, and with what motives. We do not deserve reasons, much less explanations. Philosophical skepticism defined as a critical attitude and the value of asking questions have no space in his movement. López Obrador practices dogmatism, in other words, absolute knowledge and absolute certainty. Is this the way he would run the country?
If Morena wins the Mexico City government, I believe that Claudia Sheinbaum would be a better and more honest Mayor than Monreal, and that she has the merits to hold that office. I can testify, by my own experience, that she has been listening to voices beyond the closed López Obrador circle, collecting ideas about the main issues the city faces and the solutions and alternatives, and that she acknowledges the criticisms of her party and even of its leader. It is not a small feat. However, the problem is not Sheinbaum, but rather what the “election” process made completely visible: the way AMLO would exercise power in the presidency.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author.
Every six years, Mexicans go to the polls to pick a new President and a new Congress. The country’s democratic transition, though still far from complete, has made impressive strides since the 1980s, and competitive elections and political alternation have become institutions firmly embedded in political culture. Elections give voters the opportunity to choose the individuals and the party that will rule Mexico for the next six years, and since 1997, those voters have shown a deep dissatisfaction with incumbents. During this period, the country experienced a shift from PRI-ista hegemony to divided government in 1997, to successive PAN presidential victories, the second of which was heavily disputed and then, in 2012, a return to PRI control of the presidency and the Congress. Mexicans exercise their democratic rights on a regular basis, and they do so effectively. Though the democratic system is far from perfect, elections matter in Mexico. They are relatively free and fair, determine outcomes, and allow the citizenry to express both their discontent and their preferences.
It thus gives us great pleasure to introduce The Mexico Institute’s 2018 Elections Guide. Since 2012, the Mexico Institute has provided comprehensive coverage of Mexico’s presidential and congressional elections, by curating news articles and opinion polls online, and by soliciting and publishing unique content from our extensive network of analysts and experts. This archived material will now be joined by our coverage of the July 2018 election: we will provide information and analysis of the campaigns and the personalities that will compete to rule Mexico for the next six years. Over the next 11 months, we will track the parties and candidates, as well as the most important issues, domestic and foreign, which will determine voter preferences.
In addition to the content posted on this blog, the Mexico Institute hopes to host the leading candidates as they lay out their ideas and policies. These events will be presented live online as webcasts and will be archived for future reference. We intend to live up to our commitment to non-partisanship and public education by ensuring that all candidates and parties engage in robust dialogue with our audience. To further this, we will be asking you to inform our work with your questions and concerns.
Thank you for following this blog and for supporting our work. The vote that will take place on Sunday July 1, 2018 presents Mexico with divergent visions of the future, and our staff and experts will provide detailed and impartial information and analysis to help steer you through what promises to be a complex and keenly contested election.
We Mexicans are peculiar, at least our governments are. We have been reforming for decades, but we avoid changing in order to convert the reforms into an implacable kick-starter toward development. The result is the mediocrity in which we find ourselves: reforms that are richly embossed but a daily reality for which a solution is not found; an educative system that is reformed time and time again but that in day-to-day practice continues the same as always and with worse results; an economy with enormous potential that does not translate into growth, attractive jobs or improvement in expectations; and, above all, a social setting deprived of hope rather than one imbued with optimism, anger instead of satisfaction and a million wasted opportunities. Our circumstance brings to mind that famous quote from Kolakowski on boarding a streetcar: “Please step forward to the rear.” This has been possible for one very simple reason: Mexico has for decades counted on two instruments that have permitted things to plod along at the minimum, without creating a social or economic crisis, while preserving the political status quo and the privileges accompanying it. These two instruments -migration to the U.S. and NAFTA- will no longer solve the problem in the future and that leaves us only one way out: get on with the task that has been obvious for years, but that no one has wanted to tackle and that is none other than to raise the levels of productivity, the sole manner existing to elevate standards of living. The way out does not lie in more of the same or in returning to what did not work in the past but that continues to generate such nostalgia. Instead of a serious discussion on the measures necessary for taking that step forward, we have two contrasting discourses. On the governmental side, all the rhetoric from 2012 forward has been concentrated on the “great” reforms that would be implemented by themselves and with which Mexico would enter into the ineffable Nirvana. But it is precisely in the implementation that things got bogged down, diminishing the reforms’ potential benefits. For ALMO, the proposal is for Mexico to concentrate on the internal market, create well compensated means of livelihood and return to an economic ambit with protections from the outside, favoring the producers. Both visions have their foundation, but neither is adequate. The country requires a strategy of development that must begin by engendering conditions for it to be possible. Having many reforms is not worth anything if there are not suitable condictions for these to advance and the promotion of the internal market is worth nothing if it does not raise productivity. That is, there is no contradiction between reforming and promoting the internal market: the contradiction resides in the pretension of being able to impose development without producing the conditions for this to be possible. Reforms -of Peña or of AMLO- are mere tools; without a strategy to articulate them, development is impossible. And, of course, any plan of action for development should take into account the domestic market as well as the globalization of production; two faces of the same coin, both necessary for raising life levels. The two mainstays of the status quo of recent decades, migration and NAFTA, will not be viable in the future. Migration has changed because demand for labor in the U.S. has decreased, but also because the demographic curve in Mexico has been transformed; in addition, the growing difficulties involved in crossing the border certainly discourage migration. For its part, the reality is that the transcendence of NAFTA has declined radically: with Trump the notion disappeared that it is untouchable and this has caused investment to collapse. Without investment, the economy is not going to grow no matter how many reforms are forged or how much the internal market is emphasized. The only thing left as a possibility is the creation of conditions that make development possible and that is nothing other than raising productivity. How can that be done? Productivity is the result of the best use of human and technological resources and that requires an educative system that allows for the developing of knowledge, skills, and capacities for the productive process; that is to say, it requires that education stop being at the service of the political control that the unions exercise for their own benefit and to concentrate itself on the development of persons to prepare them for a productive and successful life. It is the same case for infrastructure, communications, the treatment that the bureaucracy affords the citizenry and, naturally, the judiciary. The point is that development does not just happen nor can it be ordained by decree: it is the result of the existence of a climate that renders it possible to raise productivity aloft and everything should be dedicated to it. Our system of government has made development impossible because everything is designed so that the control of key processes that breed power and privilege is in the hands of a few, as is the case of education. Inasmuch as that does not change, the economy will continue to stagnate, whether or not the project is the one of the grand reforms or of the internal market. It’s all the same. What has changed is the environment: the subterfuges that made it possible avoiding proactive actions have vanished from sight; we better do the job or stay stuck. “The best way to predict the future, says Peter Drucker, is to create it.” www.cidac.org
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author.
In the third week of July, Dr. Alejandro Moreno (El Financiero’s pollster) wrote a very interesting article about the characteristics of the average MORENA voter. People who identify with MORENA are more likely to identify as male than female and tend to be younger, better educated, more unsatisfied with the government, and have more positive opinions of the party's founder, president, and leading presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), than the average Mexican. Additionally, they believe in policies traditionally associated with more “farther-away-from-the-center” leftist parties. Furthermore, MORENA voters are the group who most distrusts the country's electoral system.
Paraphrasing the article, these are a few of the numbers that the most recent El Financiero survey revealed about potential MORENA voters:
The description of the average MORENA voter presents various interesting scenarios for this party and its candidate, AMLO, for the next presidential election. First of all, as the majority of MORENA supporters are men, it is important for the party to mobilize female voters as there are more women in Mexico than men. This may be especially relevant if the only woman among the potential candidates, Margarita Zavala, becomes the PAN's candidate. Second of all, as most voters in Mexico are young (at least younger than the national voter average of 43 years old), MORENA may be able to cash in on the fact that most MORENA supporters are younger than other parties' supporters. This implies that they need to push for policies that seem attractive to a younger audience, rather than their traditional policies, such as the socially conservative policies that have been a signature of AMLO's proposals. For example, AMLO has said that his government would hold a national referendum to determine if minority groups should have equal rights with respect to issues such as same-sex marriage or adoption. This seems completely counter-intuitive, as most MORENA supporters are located in the center of the country (Mexico City and nearby states), and Mexico City's young voters are the most socially liberal in the country. It seems unwise for AMLO not to take a more liberal stance on these types of issues.
Finally, another element to take into account is that MORENA supporters are the group of voters that most distrusts the government and the Mexican electoral system. This could be troublesome for the fragile Mexican democracy as the main narrative pushed by AMLO and many of MORENA's candidates (i.e. Delfina Gómez in the 2017 State of Mexico elections) is that electoral fraud exists and that the incumbent parties are cheating to win elections. AMLO and his fellow party members (since his time in the PRD) have not been able to demonstrate in court that this has been the case; nevertheless, with the ample corruption in Mexican politics--and the excessive amounts of dark resources spent on elections--it is not unreasonable to believe that collusion between the government and the electoral courts is possible. At least 66 percent of MORENA supporters and 57 percent of PRD supporters believe this. In a country very divided among party and income lines, an AMLO defeat could produce turbulent times; something that neither the Mexican democracy or economy needs.