By RICARDO CASTILLO
The change of Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies president comes along every Sept. 1, this year with the State of the Nation Address delivered on Sunday by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).
This time around, however, there was a rift over who was to be the next Chamber of Deputies president. The second-strongest force in the chamber, members of the National Action Party (PAN), demanded that their candidate, Xavier Azuara, be installed as president in agreement with an old mode of governance voted into practice in 2007 that said that each party had the right to lead the legislative house for one year.
But this time, a motion was introduced by the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) majority party by Chamber Vice President María de los Angeles Padierna for the repetition of the post for up to three years. The motion was voted on and — no surprise — the Morena proposed candidate Porfirio Muñoz Ledo got reelected for five extra days until Sept. 5, when there’ll be a second — and no doubt definitive — vote to keep him on as president four to three years.
This led to a verbal brawl in the chamber since PAN members led by the chamber deputy’s leader Juan Carlos Romero Hicks and Senator Xochitl Gálvez, when their candidate received 259 votes against and 169 in favor to be the new president. Besides the PAN, members of the other minority Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Citizens’ Movement Party (MC) all voted in favor of candidate Azuara.
It was then that Gálvez and several other deputies took to the stage, shouting “spurious, spurious” at Muñoz Ledo and also chanting “democracy yes, authoritarianism no.”
Ricardo Monreal, leader of the Morena Party senators, defended Muñoz Ledo, 86 years old and just off a minor surgery, taking the stage and claiming the Morena victory clean because “Muñoz Ledo is history; he was history already before many of you were even born; he was already out on the street fighting for democracy.”
Finally, the forever-controversial Muñoz Ledo took the stand, demanding that everyone quit calling each other injurious and intolerant names.
“Parliamentary legality obliges us to have a respectful treatment of each other,” he said. “Beware, because there are those who demand respect without giving it, and I am not referring to the intolerants … I warn that in parliaments vociferation often hides mental paraplegia.”
All the while, the Morena deputies were chanting, “it’s an honor to be with López Obrador” and “it’s delirium to be with Porfirio.” It was total mayhem, with the screams of protest from the opposition deputies mixing in with the Morena majority.
In the other Mexican congressional house, another dispute for the presidency of the Chamber of Senators was settled. Senator Mónica Fernández was duly elected by a clear majority to be the president for the year to come until Sept. 1, 2020. Fernández won over Senator Martí Batres, who was also seeking reelection, but on the first round of votes lost by a slim margin and by the second vote there was no question that he was not going to continue as Senate leader.
That settles it for the leadership of both houses of the Mexican Congress, expecting a new vote by a two-thirds majority later this week, in which there is little doubt that the octogenarian Muñoz Ledo will be reelected for another year as Chamber of Deputies president.
In an interview later in the day, Muñoz Ledo joked that the PAN deputies are extremely worried not just because they are an almost meaningless minority party, but also because “they know I am going to rule the Chamber of Deputies for the next 25 years.”