The dispute for the presidential candidacies is white hot and it manifests itself in conflicts, proposals, trip ups, attacks, negotiations, and many lighted candles. All of the so-called “yearners” vow everything necessary to court their public: some, the PRDists, are set on building a Front to achieve their survival; the PANists stir up discord and become entangled in impregnable feuds forgetting that first one must win; on their part, the PRIists do their upmost in being attentive –this bordering on adulation- to the person invested with deciding the candidacy, the President. Internal competition is natural and inevitable, and each party solves this in its own manner. Presumably, all intend for that process to heighten the probability of their party winning the presidential election.
The aspirations and contests are all legitimate, but have nothing to do with the problems and challenges confronting the country or with the needs and expectations of the population, which ends up a mere spectator in a process in which it is the protagonist but over which it has practically no influence. And much less about what follows after election day.
Despite the distance that separates who will come to govern from the population, what is evident since at least three decades ago is that presidents cannot govern or be successful without at least the recognition and esteem of the population. If one were to observe the evolution of the administrations from the eighties, the governments that advanced and contributed something relevant were those that sought out and procured the support of the citizenry. All those who ignored and scorned it wound up in defeat.
Popular support is always important, thus the maxim of Mao to the effect that one could govern without food or an army but never without the people’s trust. That elemental principle has become crucial in the era of the ubiquitous information in that the governments of today do not control that fundamental input that, in the past, served to shroud the citizenry in ignorance. Today, the social media and other means of delivering information are nearly always more important than the instruments that governments possess to act. If the latter is added to the enormous power of the financial markets and their disruptive potential, it is clear that those who aspire to govern must bear in mind at least three decisive axes that so many of our governments have recently ignored.
The three key axes for the viability and potential success of the next government are very plain: to govern, keep the finances on an even keel, and win the trust of the population. These would seem obvious but, on judging from the results of the last decades, none of these is easy to come by. In addition, after Fox, by whom the citizenry felt betrayed, the voters have learned to use their vote to reward or punish, respectively, the parties and their candidates.
Into this environment will arrive a new president at the presidential house, while the Ministers of Finance, the Interior, and the other key government offices will all feel that the Revolution did them justice. They made it! All that when the job has not even begun.
To govern, that rarified verb whose meaning today’s young people have never witnessed implies taking charge of the basics: security, justice, and public services; deciding on priorities, explaining things to the population, convincing the electorate, and joining forces to re-direct the nation’s destiny. Those aspiring to govern typically disregard what that infers: winning over the citizenry, affecting interests, submitting those who threaten or harm the population and, in any case, giving up some of their powers to institutionalize their own function. The dispute over the Office of the new anti-corruption czar is a good example: Would this not have been the great opportunity to depoliticize the administration of justice and lay a foundation for the progress of the country, breaking away from the past?
Maintaining public finances in balance is something that would appear to be simple since for any citizen it is elemental not to spend more than one has. However, there is no lack of ministers who think they can defy the law of gravity: they spend more than comes in, they put the Public Treasury in debt and then pretend to wash their hands from the resulting inflation and devaluations, all of these factors creating anxiety among creditors, contempt on the part of the people and the mushrooming costs of the debt. Decades of crisis have been insufficient to internalize these things that are so obvious in nature.
Finally, no one can profess to govern if they do not explain to the citizenry what it is that they intend to achieve, convince it of the soundness of their proposals and report to it on the difficulties that come about along the way. Instead of that, our rulers tend to opt for the lie, gloss over their errors and pretend that no one noticed. How much simpler it is to cultivate the citizens’ confidence and be accountable, in the good times and the bad. All good leaders understand this. Liu Bang, the first Emperor of the Han dynasty (202-195 AD), supposedly said that “he could conquer an empire from horseback but had to dismount to rule it.” Mexico is not different: one must dismount to govern…