By RICARDO CASTILLO
Unwittingly, Mexico has now returned to the exact same quagmire that it revolted against more than 70 years ago: the one-party political system. Today, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) has both the presidency and a majority control in both houses of Congress, winning 53 percent of the vote in the July 1 elections.
For at least the next three years, whatever bill Morena politicos and their allies in the Labor (PT) and Social Encounter (PES) parties want to pass will get the automatic green light. The Green Party has decided to join these parties to boot, giving President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) unrestricted power starting from when he is sworn in on Dec. 1.
The question now is not Morena’s unquestionable victory at the polls, but whether it will lead back to the abhorred days of Mexico’s one-party system. And from the looks of it, we can expect Mexican politics to be heading in that direction because the “opposition” parties in Congress do not wield enough power to oppose the Morena. All of which brings about the question: Is this the “democracy” Mexico really wants or needs?
Morena now boasts 255 of the 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, while it holds 59 Chamber of Senators seats out of a total of 128. The party’s majority is clear. That is not the case with the various minorities, which now make up a set of fragmented groups ideologically divided rather than a uniform opposition to Morena.
There are no real answers as to the future of the three top “opposition” parties that still hold some clout in the Mexican Congress. They are, in order of stance, the National Action Party (PAN), the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD). Yet their presence in both houses is restricted and can easily be rendered meaningless if Morena proposes bills they might agree with.
So what are the internal states of affairs at the PAN, PRI and PRD? Let’s review each of their situations in order to consider how they will fare in the coming times – for them – of political drought. The defeated threesome is undergoing a revamping process, each on its own ideological terms.
The conservative (rightwing, leftists claim) PAN is currently holding internal elections for a new leader. Competition for the party leadership, however, has opened up a deep sinkhole among the different factions vying for power.
Prior to the presidential campaign, candidate Ricardo Anaya had grabbed power at the PAN and that leadership has not waned even in the face of his resounding defeat. Anaya placed his campaign director and PAN President Damián Zepeda as the Senate leader for the scant 24 senators the PAN has left. (It also has control of nine state governorships.)
Senator Zepeda has taken a zealot’s stance against Morena, claiming “the PAN has the challenge of being Mexico’s top opposition party, one that does not bend when confronting the government.” He could have good intentions, but it sounds like wishful thinking.
In any case, the splinter within the PAN is huge. Just last week, we witnessed a clash between aspiring PAN presidential candidate Marko Cortés and former president of Mexico Felipe Calderón, who is still a PAN member. There was a verbal twitter bout between them in which both called each other a “traitor” to the PAN’s ideals. Still, Cortés is currently a viable candidate, while Calderón is not. Calderón accused Cortés of being a crony to Anaya and said that, if elected, he would guarantee the “continuity” of Anaya’s group. On the contrary, Cortés now regrets ever having backed Anaya for president.
Another candidate for the PAN presidency is Manuel Gómez Morín, the grandson of his namesake founder of the party in 1939. His real name should be Manuel Martínez del Río, but he’s preserving his grandpa’s last name just because it is the one that PAN members most easily recall.
Gomez Morín’s argument is that the PAN “has lost its soul” and has no real voting base, which it uses only to preserve official registration at the National Electoral Institute (INE).
Gómez Morín represents a third faction at PAN, headed by former party president and now Senator Gustavo Madero and Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral, who joined him when he threw his hat into the ring.
“Many claim we are undergoing a crisis, that we’re in crisis. No, no we are not. What we have before us is a last opportunity to survive,” he said, adding that the party “has been beleaguered by bad candidates,” specifically mentioning Anaya’s bid for the presidency. He is now the main opponent to Marko Cortés. The election will come in the last week of November.
So much for the largest minority in Congress. Next is the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which is also vying to stay alive.
Most analysts agree that, right now, the PRI is in a lull under the presidency of Claudia Ruiz-Massieu, who is seeking to reorganize while several groups are trying to snatch control away from her. But the timing for the PRI, with a scant 14 senators and 30 deputies, is different than that of the PAN. It is expected that next year the party will try to realign its forces, once it is out of presidential power, and that a power struggle will ensue, fighting for the scavenges of the once-mighty “steamroller” political machinery. We’ll see!
Finally, there is the Democratic Revolution Party, with five senators and 20 deputies. The latest news is that the PRD has declared political and economic bankruptcy and is currently in the process of laying off most of its personnel, with all the problems that brings along in Mexico because the party has to pay severance. The PRD may be on its last legs in power.
In 2012, the PRD leadership – after their candidate AMLO lost the election to President Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN) – politically embraced (wedded, in Mexican political cant) an alliance with EPN in order to push through both the Energy and Education reforms. That led to the PRD’s split with AMLO, and now it is clear that they signed their own burial certificates since in 2018 they lost their main bastion, the Mexico City governorship.
For sure, like the PRI, we’ll see a moribund PRD lingering on for a few more years. One big problem the PRD faces is that it has no potential leaders since the party founders have severed themselves from whatever leadership is left. In short, the PRD’s name for the future is mud.
So that’s how the current division of power in Mexico stands in both chambers of Congress and that is what there is left for the “opposition” parties, which, of course, have no chance of coming together, which enhances even further the “absolute power” President-elect AMLO will wield once he’s sworn in.