By RICARDO CASTILLO
Some Mexicans just don’t like the way the electoral procedure is being carried out by the National Electoral Institute (INE). The problem is that those disgruntled Mexicans are blaming the INE for what they perceive as irregularities in the process, but the procedure was designed by Congress, and the only way out of this long and tedious charade of political democracy is to bite our lips and wait patiently for election day on July 1, when the entire farce will finally come to an end.
During the first leg of the process, which ran from Dec. 14 to Feb. 11, the parties were supposed to hold primaries and to allow hopeful contenders for supremacy to compete for the title of candidate. But that was a sheer waste of money as the three groups integrating the nine registered political parties had already made up their minds long beforehand who would be their respective candidates, each in their own particular fashion.
As part of the second stage of the electoral procedure, last Sunday, Feb. 18, the charade – there are worse names for it, but charade is a fair description – reached it second peak stage as the three presidential candidates who ran during the “pre-campaign” were officially sworn in as candidates.
At baseball stadium Foro Sol, the Institutional Revolutionary (PRI), the Green Ecologist (PVEM) and the National Alliance (Panal) parties bused in – in keeping with the PRI’s age-old tradition – nearly 40,000 people from all over the nation to show their support for candidate José Antonio Meade. Of course, Meade, who does not belong to nor has ever been a militant in any of these parties, was appointed candidate by President Enrique Peña Nieto and duly endorsed by current Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray. Indeed, Meade is “the official” candidate for the government.
Meanwhile, at a hotel across the street from the Alameda Park in downtown Mexico City, the head honchos of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), along with the minority Labor Party (PT) and Social Encounter Party (PES), were unanimously swearing in the longest running candidate for president in Mexican history, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).
And last, but not least, at the half-full, 10,000-seat-capacity National Auditorium, the “unholy alliance” made by the rightwing National Action Party (PAN), the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and Citizens’ Movement Party (MC) swore-in the PAN’s former president, Ricardo Anaya, in an act that began one hour and a half late.
Now that the candidates have been officially elected and it is now uncontroversial that they will run their races to the end, they must wait for Round Three of the electoral procedure, which will start on March 30, when “the real campaign” supposedly kicks off.
I put “the official campaign” in quotes because these three presidential hopefuls have been running their presidential campaigns since Dec. 14, and from the very start, not one of them made any bones about being a candidate. Surely, when the next and new Congress convenes, a major topic on the new agenda will be a revamping the electoral process. The timing could not be any worse because it’s been costing zillions of pesos to carry out this mockery of democracy ever since it began.
One thing in common that all three of the candidates hit on during their acceptance speeches was their commitment to all fight “corruption.” Of course, none of them described exactly how they would go about achieving that goal, especially considering that the greatest perk for Mexican government bureaucrats and officials is the fact that they get to line their pockets with bribes, kickbacks and “commissions” on government contracts. For most Mexican politicians, the endgame of any election victory is the swag that comes with the office, so “corruption is great,” but the candidates swore that they’ll fight it anyway. Do you believe them? Honestly, most Mexican voters don’t either, but the candidates have to promise something.
Actually, the swearing-in ceremonies were mere pomp and circumstance. The real political action happened in backdoor deals that took place in every scenario as parties discussed the appointment of “pluri-nominal” candidates for senator and deputy posts. In case you’re not familiar with the makeup of the Mexican Congress, one third of it members – senators and deputies (representatives) – are appointed by their parties and do not have to contend in the electoral process. This practice was established to give minority parties a representation in Congress.
But the big gossip on this story, particularly in the unlikely appointments of candidates by some parties, will come next Thursday in my next column, which will be devoted to that topic.
ON A SEPARATE ISSUE, the Foreign Relations Secretariat announced last Thursday that Presidents Donald J. Trump and Enrique Peña Nieto very much want to hold a meeting, but Luis Videgaray could not specify as to when and where said meeting would happen “over the course of the next few weeks.”
The truth is that President Peña Nieto can’t invite Trump to Mexico and – damned if he does – nor can he visit the White House, because even if his political reputation is at a low point now, it would only get worse if he were seen shaking hands with The Donald.
Ah, but there might be a chance at the Eighth Summit of the Americas, which will be held in Peru next April 14 and 15, an event to which both heads of state were invited and both are expected to attend.
A big advantage to that summit will be a focus on more pressing regional issues, particularly Venezuela’s controversial president, Nicolás Maduro, who is now threatening to attend, “even if I have not been invited.” That should prove to be a tumultuous distraction, which will probably have both Trump and Peña Nieto saying, “Bless your soul, Nicolás.” That is, of course, if Trump attends.