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By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE

PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco — Leftist Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is now halfway through his six-year term, and has promised to not try to stay in office when that term expires on Nov. 30, 2024.

Which begs the question: Who will succeed him in that office?

Is it too early to predict next Mexican president?

Elections are always tricky to predict, even in the most stable governments. Add to that the Mexican components of political subtexts, conspiracy theories and dubious opinion-polling, it could be a huge leap to make a prediction a little less than three years out.

Or maybe not.

A July 22 editorial in the Washington Post, which admittedly is not a great fan of AMLO, titled “Who Will Be Mexico’s Next President? The Current One Has Too Much to Say,” certainly seems to collaborate the fact that López Obrador’s National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party fears losing control of the presidency in the July 7, 2024 vote, as happened in the 2021 midterm elections, when Morena lost control over the lower house Chamber of Deputies.

Meanwhile, AMLO is already parading around his two potential replacements, the current mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, seen with little backbone as she parrots his mantras daily to the degree of repeating his key phrases, a loyalty that has earned her the president’s favor, and the other front runner, Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, also a former Mexico City mayor, who has quite a bit of baggage surrounding shady contract management on some major construction projects like the capital’s Line 12 Metro, which collapsed in May, killing 25 people and leaving other permanently maimed.

Although Ebrard has been a loyal López Obrador follower since the early days of his presidency, interestingly he is not registered officially within the Morena party.

Neither Sheinbaum nor Ebrard are particularly loved by the masses, but AMLO’s popularity remains consistently high, so his blessing means everything.

One thing is certain: It will be the middle class that decides the 2024 presidential race, a race with no constitutional second-term permitted.

It does not matter too terribly much, either, who the opposition candidate will be.

There are no charismatic silver bullets waiting in the wings to be thrust forward by any party, no political superstar with charisma, intelligence, political savvy, massive campaign funds or any combination there of, who will do the trick.

It will all come down to social class.

And here is why: If the middle classes come out in mass to vote, AMLO’s party will lose, especially since the president has repeatedly taken aim at the country’s middle class, accusing them of being “ambitious, selfish and determined to succeed at any cost.”

If, on the other hand, the middle class stays home on election day,  Morena will remain in power, at least at the executive branch, for another six years.

So is it really about the numbers? Yes and no.

Morena has something to offer for most of the population. For the rich, it awards the big federal construction and service contracts, although AMLO has gone out of his way to alienate many corporate leaders and has favored but a few, starting with billionaire Carlos Slim. With Morena in power, the rich may not see economic prosperity, but they are not personally suffering, so it does not matter to the rich in the end game if Morena wins or loses.

For the poor, Morena is seen as a champion of their causes, working to end corruption, one of AMLO’s catch phrases, although according to the World Justice Project index, Mexico has fallen nine points in just the last year to 113th place out of 139 countries in terms of fighting corruption.

But going back to the numbers…

According to the government’s National Institute for Statistics and Geography Inegi), the rich represent about 1.7 percent of the Mexican population, the middle class represents 39.2 percent, and the poor account for the remaining 59.1 percent.

And in Mexico, votes are often commodities that the poor are happy to surrender for a handful of pesos.

So what is there to predict if the poor have the numbers and are willing to sell their votes to the highest bidder?

The wild card in this particular electoral round is that there may not be enough cash to pay more voters as a counterbalance to Mexico’s now-angry middle classes, who may come out to vote in mass on principle. Mexico’s middle class, disenfranchised by the political system, including some of whom did vote for AMLO last time around, are now saying, “What do I get from my government? Anything?”

And the Morena government knows far too well that it cannot control the middle class, because that group has not gotten anything out of the AMLO administration, unless substandard public schools, overcrowded and underfunded health care, and a weakened buying power constitute a benefit.

The Mexican middle class generates about 50 percent of the country’s GDP and creates eight out of every 10 jobs, according the government statistics.

Moreover, these disgruntled constituents pay plenty in taxes that is being used to subsidize programs that are legitimately needed for the poor.

However when Morena suffered significant loses in the midterms, López Obrador repeatedly chastised the middle class for not being patriots and not supporting him, and that has gotten their political dander up.

So while a lot of time over the next two and a half years will be spent looking at potential candidates’ records and characters in all of the parties, it may not really matter.

It may all boil down to whether or not the middle class has had enough of AMLO and his so-called Fourth Transformation (4T) politics, and whether they are ready to vote.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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