By RICARDO CASTILLO
There are two facts of life about Mexican democracy: One, it is run and operated by an autonomous organization, the National Electoral Institute (INE), and two, it is one of the most expensive government-subsidized democracies in the world.
At this time of year, it is relevant to take the above-mentioned facts into consideration because at the INE, it is budgeting time for next year. In fact, INE President Lorenzo Córdova just presented the operational budget for the seven existing political parties with seats in both houses of Congress, and allotments, based on the number of votes each party got in the past general election, are as follows:
The lion’s share of the money for parties (INE has its own separate operational budget to stage elections) for next year goes to the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), which is getting 1.654 billion pesos. It raked in 53 percent of the vote during the July 1, 2018, election.
Second place goes to the National Action Party (PAN), which got 24 percent of the vote and has the right to receive close to 1 billion pesos, while the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), with 16 percent of the vote, is getting 856 million pesos. Not bad for losers, though scraps nowadays for the PRI, which in 2012 received nearly 1.7 billion pesos for the election back then. But given the representations it claims to have, the party is doing great.
Several “mini-parties” – some destined to die in the next elections — such as the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the Labor Party (PT), the Green Party (PVEM) and the Citizens’ Movement (MC) — will be getting minor shares of the bulk money proposed by the INE, which totals 5.239 billion pesos, including an extra sum for parties to promote “female leadership.”
Though this amount has yet to be approved by both houses of Congress, where Morena is the majority, it is certain that, with some minor cuts here and there, it will be approved as a whole.
But while party leaders are already rubbing their hands in greed, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is crying “foul,” just like in baseball. In fact, he’s publicly demanding that all parties return 50 percent of what they are slated to received, allegedly to live high on the hog.
“They can’t be receiving this much money,” he said. “They have to reduce expenditures. They have to return (to the Treasury Secretariat) a percent of those prerogatives.”
Not everyone agrees. INE President Córdova, though he said that while “it’s viable to reduce somewhat the budget destined to political parties, it must not be done in a considerable amount, which might lead parties to seek funding from illegal sources.” Córdova is aware that criminal organizations are seeking to pollute the thus-far clean electoral system by imposing candidates.
Perhaps one of the reasons why AMLO considers that the parties are getting “too much” could be that when he founded Morena back in 2014, the party was penniless and still came from behind to gain a great deal of political ground to turn Morena into the majority party, which may now start to enjoy the financial Land of Milk and Honey that comes with electoral success in Mexico.
Observers opine that this is the best that could happen to Morena, since the party has no representation in several states and some of those funds could be invested in enhancing the party’s physical presence there.
It must be pointed out that the INE will see scant electoral activity next year, but considers that preparations must be made for the 2021 elections, when the agenda is laden with state elections for governors, federal deputies, and municipal mayors in the states of Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Querétaro, Sinaloa, San Luis Potosí, Nayarit, Campeche, Sonora, Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Tlaxcala, Baja California (maybe –– check out my Pulse News Mexico column “Baja Governor Term Extension Approved”) and Baja California Sur.
The INE considers also within its budget the internal elections of parties, which are coming up. For sure, in September the PRI will hold its national election to elect its president, while Morena will also hold an election for party president in November. Those elections do have a financial cost.
All in all, the only voice protesting the INE-proposed budget may be AMLO, but it is partly because he wants to have a buoyant economy through cutting budgets down to the leanest possible.
But in the end, Mexican voters – who directly run the electoral process on election days – see that a good budget both improves the possibility of many who have a calling to pursue a political career. Even more important is the fact that, with adequate funding, the parties will stay aloof from corrupt practices, which have harmed the nation so much in the past.