Politics Makes for Strange Bedfellows
By RICARDO CASTILLO
In a nine-party political system like Mexico’s, the entire process for the 2018 presidential election is quite sui generis.
Since no one party has a clear majority all nine have opted three different “coalitions.” Mexicans are now witnessing the most unlikely partners crawling into bed with one another, so to speak.
The three presidential candidates filed their letter of intent to become their respective coalition’s candidate at the last deadline of Dec. 14 and are now running campaigns that are tantamount to what in the United States would be primaries. The one big difference with the United States in these “pre-campaigns,” as the elections organizer National Electoral Institute (INE) calls them, is that the three “hopeful” candidates are running unopposed so voters already know who the candidates for president will be.
Still, there might be a fourth candidate in this case, an independent person who says he has managed to garner the required 867,000 signatures spread out throughout 17 states that he needs to register. At present, it seems clear that the would-be “independent candidate” does have over a million signatures, but what’s not clear is if they cover the 17-state requirement. We’ll know that in a couple of weeks. If he is admitted, this would constitute the first time in Mexican electoral history that an independent candidate manages registration.
But let’s take the candidates and their coalition one at a time. They still have to carry on with “pre-electioneering” until Feb. 11, when surely the INE will admit them as candidates. Til then, these are the coalitions that will be contending for the presidency next July 1.
At least over this December vacation, the leading candidate has been without a doubt Andrés Manuel López Obrador, AMLO for short. AMLO has actually been on a presidential quest since he ran for the first time for the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) in one of the most controversial elections in Mexican history back in 2006. He lost by less than 1 percent to Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (PAN), who was literally a king without a crown during his entire mandate.
AMLO ran again for the PRD in 2012, and this time lost to the current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, by a 6 percent margin which could not be questioned or called fraudulent.
After this defeat, AMLO opted to break up with the PRD moguls who couldn’t tolerate his desire to run for a third time. In 2014, AMLO set out on a new venture and organized the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), which ran as an official political party for the first time in the 2015 mid-term elections. By 2015, it became unmistakably evident that Morena had broken the backbone of voters of the PRD, which slumped down to a minority party.
A side comment about the Morena name is seen as one of AMLO’s master coups to garner votes. Morena, which means brown-skinned woman, is a clear appeal to the majority mestizo Catholic vote as “Morena” also refers to the “Morena Virgin” that is worshiped by nearly all Mexicans.
Morena also formed an alliance with two small political parties: first, the radical left wing Labor Party (PT), which has always been a headache in Congress for the conservative parties, and, second, in another master coup, AMLO established an alliance with the Social Encounter Party (PES), an organization clearly backed by the ever-growing protestant minority. These two little parties might bring AMLO around 6 percent of the total vote.
A second candidate is no doubt “Wonder Boy” Ricardo Anaya of the National Action Party. Over the past few months, Anaya began feuding with a group of PAN members in Congress who clearly represent the interests of former president Felipe Calderón. So Anaya, in a clear minority at the PAN, but unquestionably the party leader, decided to establish links with the PRD as well as another tiny party called the Citizens’ Movement (MC.) They met and agreed that they could form a coalition that was definitely registered on Dec. 14 with Ricardo Anaya – also called “Cepillo” or brush for his crew-cut hair – as the sole contender for the Movement for Mexico at the Fore.
What this coalition has done is to salvage what was left of the PRD and the PAN, and, between the two and the support of MC, they do represent a competitive contending force.
Last but not least is the candidate for the current governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), José Antonio Meade.
Unlike AMLO and Anaya, Meade is not a member of any political party, but was appointed the candidate by President Enrique Peña Nieto mostly because by the end of the president’s fifth year in power, the PRI is in total disarray given the poor performance of Peña Nieto on many aspects of governance.
The truth was that by the time Meade was appointed the candidate, the PRI had no one else with enough prestige to even get close to winning an election. For the most part, the PRI is now way down in all the polls (friendly and unfriendly) because of the rampant corruption and theft going on in the current government.
The PRI is joined by its crony and equally corrupt Green Party (PVEM), which is spat upon by all the green parties in the world, and by the National Alliance Party (Panal), which has its base in the nearly 2 million teachers in the National Education Workers Union.
For now there are the nine parties – three per coalition – that are campaigning for their “hopeful” candidate in a farce headed by the INE.
The only thing we really know is that AMLO, Anaya and Meade will for sure be the final candidates.