By RICARDO CASTILLO
With the Mexican elections now fully underway in a race for a total of 3,416 different posts, it is worth taking the time to look back on history and see how the country got this far into democracy, as well as reviewing the odd shape of the political alliances of nine parties into three separate fronts.
As far as what’s up for grabs nowadays in the upcoming July 1 election, here’s a breakdown of the different elections. First and most important is the four-candidate contest for the nation’s presidency. Then both houses of the federal Congress, with 128 senators and 500 deputies or congressmen, will be renewed. There will be nine elections for governors, including that of Mexico City, which has become a state. Across the nation, there will be 972 elections for state assemblies, 1,596 for town halls, 184 municipal councils and 16 Mexico City town halls.
Unlike in the past, where only candidates stemming out of organized and registered political parties could participate, the great novelty in this year’s elections will be a myriad of independent candidates not affiliated to any political party who registered following the garnering of supporting signatures in a procedure overseen by the National Electoral Institute (INE) which, in turn, oversees the organization of all elections through state electoral institutes.
The INE has been in existence since 1990, when the Mexican Congress voted in a regulatory framework for the INE to follow. Previous to this, all elections were organized by the Interior Secretariat (SeGob). Needless to say, the elections were rigged to favor the candidates of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which had held the presidency since 1929, when the original version of the PRI was founded, until year 2000 when it lost its first election in 70 years of one-party rule to the National Action Party (PAN.)
Over the last 28 years, the INE has done a fairly good job of organizing the elections. But, definitely, the shape of the political parties has changed broadly. For instance, the current ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) posted a candidate who is not an affiliated party member and is going in a coalition with the Green Party (PVEM) and National Alliance Party (Panal). This has never happened before in the PRI’s history, the posting of an outsider as its candidate.
But even more bizarre is the case of the Catholic conservative PAN, which joined in an electoral cause with its bitter enemy, the left-wing and now-in-shambles Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), as well as with the Citizen’s Movement (MC), which is also a liberal but very tiny organization.
Completing the political competition is the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), a party in its second participation in elections, which also struck another bizarre alliance with the very small Social Encounter Party (PES), backed by Protestant churches and the extreme left-wing Labor Party (PT).
With this outlook in mind, there will surely be a radical change in the composition of Congress since as of 1990 electoral results showed that only three parties (the PRI, the PAN and the PRD) were not only the top competitors in elections, but also the ones that had the upper hand in congressional debates to come up with new laws. These three once-giants (in the 2000 election, they carried 90 percent of the vote, but by the 2015 mid-term election, their bulk had dwindled to 60 percent) are presently in dire straits.
During the 28-year period the INE has organized the elections, a new phenomenon has appeared with the appearance and disappearance of small political parties that even with a low number of votes have tilted elections. A good example was the 2006 appearance of the Socialist Democratic Party (PSD), whose candidate got a mere 5 percent of the vote, but since the PRD and the PAN candidates were tied at 36 percent, that 5 percent of the vote tilted the election to favor Felipe Calderón and turn Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) into a loser.
Now these two unlikely bedfellows, the PAN and the PRD, are backing candidate Ricardo Anaya along with the MC. Traditionally, the right and left in Mexico hated each other forever, but that has changed. The one reason for their alliance is that they both lost a lot of members.
Then there is Morena, a party that obtained its legal status in 2014 but which is a splinter from the PRD as AMLO left the party after having run twice for president with it. The PRD got a very bad thrashing in terms of losing a huge membership that moved to AMLO’s Morena.
The PAN, on the other hand, also underwent an internal schism as a group of militants led by former President Felipe Calderón backed Calderón’s wife, Margarita Zavala, as candidate for president. The current leader, Anaya, an ambitious 39-year old “wonder boy,” finally won the PAN’s internal election backed by the PRD and the MC. Margarita Zavala managed to garner enough voter support to run as an independent, the first in Mexican politics.
In the current political equation, a vote for Zavala will be a vote against Anaya. Even if she has no chance of winning, she’ll be running out of spite because Anaya beat her to the candidacy, even at the cost of their once-upon-a-time mighty political organization. That’ll be the price to pay for their division.
The PRI and PRD are also political parties that may fall into a slump after the election results are in. The PRI is in its deepest crisis since it became a monolith one-party system in 1929. The fact that President Enrique Peña Nieto handpicked José Antonio Meade as the candidate given his clean-cut past and not sharing the party’s very corrupt image – which includes the president – has ripped the PRI apart at the seams as traditional members, who have fought for the PRI ideals, just don’t like Meade at all. His lack of personality is not his only problem. There is also his fictitious sympathy for the devil. The proof of that is in the pudding, the president’s extremely low popularity during 2018 polls, hovering at around 20 percent.
The foreseeable outcome of the electoral process that officially kicked off last Friday is that there will be a very real and inevitable change in most Mexican political parties, and it will be extremely interesting to follow the elections for governors – where the PRI is way behind in nine out of nine – and the PAN is merely a shadow of a presence. The PRD is also done for and its once power bastion, Mexico City, most likely will fall into the hands of its now-bitter competitor, AMLO’s Morena, which based on the country’s current reading of the electoral process, stands to come out as a solid political organization and a real winner.