By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Former Mexican Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) Consultant Mauricio Merino Huerta said Saturday, June 5, that while there may be some minor changes in Mexico’s political landscape following Sunday’s midterm elections, there will be no major changes.
“There are not going to be any big surprises coming out of the vote count,” Merino Huerta told Pulse News Mexico in a one-on-one interview Saturday, June 5, just hours before the polls opened for the country’s largest elections in history, with tens of thousands of candidates vying for more than 20,000 public offices.
“If you were to compare Mexico’s political landscape scene to that of a television series, the only thing you can really expect to see on Monday, June 7, is a new season with the same old plot and the same actors.”
Merino Huerta, who served as a consultant for the IFE (the predecessor of Mexico’s current National Electoral Institute, or INE) from 1996 to 2003, overseeing professional service training, political transparency and access to information for three major elections, said that while there may be some reshuffling of partisan powers as a result of the elections, the resounding theme that has dominated Mexican politics for the last few years will continue to prevail nationwide.
“Mexican politics are highly polarized, and that polarization is mainly between parties, not individuals,” he said.
“On the one hand, you have President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (leftist) National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, and on the other hand, you have the coalition of the (centralist) Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the (conservative) National Action Party (PAN) and the (left-leaning) Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).”
Merino Huerta said that both groups are trying to grasp central control of all aspects of Mexican life and to eliminate the other.
“This is not what democracy is about,” he added. “In democracy you have to embrace diversity and plurality, and that is something that is missing in current Mexican politics.”
Merino Huerta also said that while the parties and politicians are very focused on their own victories, they have, to a great degree, missed the point that they are supposed to be representing the interests of their constituents.
This problem is also reflected in the attitude and worldviews of Mexican voters, he said, who go all out for a party and feel that they are then somehow obliged to remain faithful to that party.
“Voters need to understand that when they cast a vote, they are endorsing a particular candidate, but they are not surrendering their freedom to disagree or diverge from a particular policy,” Merino Huerta said.
At the heart of any democratic process must be a respect for citizens’ rights, starting with the right to peace and security, said Merino Huerta, who is currently cohead of the Mexican human rights group Nosotrxs and the Network for Accountability.
But in Mexico, many basic human rights, such as adequate access to health care, the ability to earn a living wage and access to reliable, vetted information, are often overshadowed by partisan politics, and this, he said, can distort the electoral process.
Asked if he felt that the unprecedented violence associated with the midterms elections could impact the vote, Merino Huerta said no.
“Mexico is living in a state of dire violence, but that violence is not really related to or sourced from the political landscape,” he said.
“The violence is, of course, reflected in the electoral process, but it does not influence it as such. If you look at the candidates who have been intimidated, kidnapped or murdered, they come from all political stripes. Organized crime groups do not favor one Mexican political party over another. They basically go after candidates who they feel could be a threat to their particular criminal activities.”
Merino Huerta made a point of saying that using force to try to rein in criminal violence was not the solution, although he did not offer much in the way of viable alternatives for confronting the nation’s surging crime.
What he did say is that the average Mexican is suffering the consequences of both an uptick in violence and the growing polarization between the two political extremes in the country, the incumbent left and the allied opposition.
In the case of healthcare, for example, Merino Huerta said that in 2020, as shocking 20 million Mexicans with chronic medical conditions were unable to obtain the medications that they had been receiving the previous year, and a full 40 million Mexicans with either chronic or emergency medical needs were not even able to obtain a professional consultation.
“What we are talking about is the right to life and health,” he said.
Merino Huerta also pointed to the fact that the government has been moving steadily away from accountability practices, dolling out contracts without public tenders and elicitations.
He also noted that the government has surrendered at least 28 civilian functions over to a military that is not required to render accounts to the general public.
“This violates the right of Mexican citizens to know what is happening with public monies,” he said.
Merino Huerta said that in order for Mexico to overcome its current political polarization, basic rights have to be respected, and political players need to stop trying to blame their opponents for their own shortcomings.
“Accepting responsibility for a mistake is also part of accountability, which is something that Mexican politics currently lack to a large extend,” he said, without offering any specific examples.
Asked what lies ahead in the coming days in the Mexican political “soap opera,” Merino Huerta said that, sadly, there will be more violence and much more partisan confrontation as candidates and parties denounce one another and question polling results before the Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF)
“So you see, there will be a change of sets in the new season, with the INE being replaced by the TEPJF, but like I said before, the actors and the plot won’t really change,” he said.
“Real change can only come with respect for all rights.”