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The Mexican Opposition Surprisingly Came Back to Life

La oposicion mexicana volvio a la vida. EFE/ Cámara de Diputados

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The Mexican opposition came back to life on April 17. The opposition alliance not only managed to stop in its tracks the initiative presented by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) to reform the Constitution and destroy the electricity sector, but also passed its litmus test with success and finally found its way to a narrative that will allow it to be competitive in the next presidential elections.

Electricity reform: López Obrador’s whim and defeat

The narrative of the AMLO regime is built on the idea that the institutional transformations that accompanied the democratic transition were a betrayal of the revolutionary model and that, therefore, a “Fourth Transformation” is needed to purge the neoliberal sins and bring back “just centralism,” where the president sets the course and prevents foreigners and businessmen from subjugating the nation’s sovereignty.

With this message (during almost two decades of permanent campaigning) Obrador gained the support of a motley alliance ranging from the radical left, to those nostalgic for the old PRI and a collection of professional politicians resentful of the old parties.

While in office, Andrés Manuel has advanced along this path, eroding institutions and concentrating more and more power in his hands. The electricity reform was the next big step in this strategy.

In short, the reform initiative handed over control of the electricity sector to the Federal Electricity Commission (headed by Manuel Bartlett, one of the president’s main allies) and subjected private companies that would survive in that sector to the whim of the executive. To this end, the reform openly violated the free trade agreement with the United States and Canada, in addition to placing the country’s entire productive plant at serious risk.

López Obrador controls (through the ruling party) more than half of the deputies and senators; however, in order to approve the constitutional reform, he needed 2/3 of the votes. That is to say, the president had to get 60 votes from the opposition deputies, something that initially did not seem impossible. After all, during his 3 and a half years in office, López Obrador had imposed his legislative agenda in the face of the resignation or support of the opposition—even on such controversial issues as the creation of the National Guard.

This time the story was different. Opposition deputies firmly resisted the pressures of the regime and voted as a block to reject the presidential initiative, scoring their biggest political victory in recent years. This is a victory they urgently needed and comes just in time, as the country enters the final stretch before the 2024 elections.

mexican opposition
The Mexican opposition has put Morena on the defensive. (Image: EFE)

Why is this opposition triumph so important?

Va Por México” (the opposition alliance that includes the PAN, the PRI, and the PRD) passed its litmus test and demonstrated its solidity as a political project. A coalition that a decade ago was unthinkable, and even two years ago was not very credible. Today it is a reality. Now we all know that the alliance works and is strong enough to defeat the president, even on key issues for him.

Va Por México” managed to include in its bloc (at least for this vote) Movimiento Ciudadano, the other opposition party, which has refused to join the alliance and which even in the debate on the electricity reform was originally betting on a “private vote”—which they withdrew on Sunday 17 when they decided to fully join the rest of the opposition—and the other opposition parties.

This political triumph demonstrates to society that López Obrador is not invincible and that his whim is not law. Today we are clear, for the first time since the beginning of the Obrador government, that in Mexico there is an effective, courageous opposition capable of resisting the regime. This notion is a prerequisite for any competitive campaign in the presidential elections.

This legislative victory plants the seed for a project that can integrate the entire opposition in a credible and competitive joint presidential campaign.

Of course, despite the defeat of his reform, Lopez Obrador is still the president, still has a popularity rating of over 60%, and still has comfortable majorities to pass secondary laws in the Congress of the Union and control a score of local governments. However, even with all that, he is not invincible. Even with all his power, Obrador can lose.

And knowing that is already a gain.

Gerardo Garibay Camarena, is a doctor of law, writer and political analyst with experience in the public and private sectors. His new book is "How to Play Chess Without Craps: A Guide to Reading Politics and Understanding Politicians" // Gerardo Garibay Camarena es doctor en derecho, escritor y analista político con experiencia en el sector público y privado. Su nuevo libro es “Cómo jugar al ajedrez Sin dados: Una guía para leer la política y entender a los políticos”

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