By RICARDO CASTILLO
Slowly but surely, Mexico is preparing for the inevitable upcoming political transition. The surge of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) political party from scratch to the most powerful party in the country in a four-year period caught everyone by surprise.
Suddenly, the political scene is confronted again with a one-party system, which has not been seen in Mexico since the 1970s, when the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had full control of the nation at all levels.
Six years ago, President Enrique Peña Nieto defeated Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) by a 6 percent margin of the vote. Peña Nieto, however, had only 38 percent of the vote and definitely was a minority president. He had to make tons of concessions during his term, including his Pact for Mexico with the National Action (PAN) and Democratic Revolution (PRD) parties in order to get approved changes to the constitution to allow for his Energy and Education reforms.
Though the Pact for Mexico was hailed by all – your truly included – as a good means of doing politics, inside the PRD, it was deemed as treasonous, particularly the Energy Reform, which, for the first time since 1938 – when Mexico’s oil was nationalized – opened the way to private investment.
AMLO will take the reins of the nation in a very different situation. First, he is a majority president. with 53 percent of the total vote. Not only that, Morena will have great influence in many state congresses and governments. giving for the first time in many a year special surveillance powers to Morena oriented congresses to closely oversee governors from other political parties. These will certainly be under constant scrutiny.
Within the federal Chamber of Deputies and Chamber of Senators, Morena and its allied parties, the Labor Party (PT) and Social Encounter Party (PES) constitute a definite majority, allowing them to run both houses of Congress practically at will.
The two contending major parties, PRI and PAN, were literally left in shambles. Both are clearly now minority parties – from riches to rags – and with deep internal problems.
The once-almighty PRI will try to do its best in the Senate with only 13 out of 128 seats. In fact, there’s a lot of talk inside the PRI of changing its name and its colors. AMLO’s victory is now seen not just as a mortal blow to the former kingpin of the one-party-system, but as a rejection of the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, who was unable to bring under control all of the very corrupt state governors. Peña Nieto also never recovered from “liberating” once-subsidized fuel prices. The Jan. 1, 2016 “gasolinazo,” or gasoline price hike, dealt Peña Nieto a deadly blow that neither her nor his political party could recover from.
At the PAN, there is a humongous division after the boisterous defeat suffered by the party’s presidential candidate, Ricardo Anaya, who by the way, has since disappeared from the face of the earth. The PAN will have an internal election, but the divide is deep among five separate groups, all of them with different ideas and objectives. And like the PRI, the PAN will be a minority “opposition” party in both houses of Congress.
Many observers are now complaining that AMLO will wield “too much power,” with nearly full control of both houses of Congress, but the bad news for the current scant number of critics is that AMLO is keenly aware of the power the majority vote awarded him with for the next six years.
One thing that will not happen is a radical change to impose a leftwing Venezuela- or Bolivia-style administration. AMLO is keeping a healthy distance from all of the leftwing governments in South America and all his critics that claimed he would “Venezuelalize” Mexico have absolutely no evidence that López Obrador – definitely a Bernie Sanders type of socialist – will steer the nation in such a course.
Another political phenomenum we’re witnessing is a transition described by many as “terse.”
Once a bitter critic of Peña Nieto, who was the head “of the mafia in power,” AMLO has nowadays toned down his rhetoric to near silence when it comes to talking about Peña Nieto. The current president’s political popularity is now rated at less than 20 percent, according to the latest polls, while AMLO’s popularity has skyrocketed to 85 percent. In short, AMLO has definitely laid off the attacks Peña Nieto, who he once labeled as “el corrupto,” to zero mentions. This may seem odd, but it assures his future administration of a “terse” transition.
The fact is that Peña Nieto will be at the helm of the nation until midnight Nov. 30, and between now and then, there’s a long stretch of time for Peña Nieto to get used to the idea that his once-mighty PRI was voted out of power in what Mexicans see as the cleanest election in history.