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How Mexico’s Opposition Fell Behind the Authoritarian Advance of Obradorismo

Imagen: EFE/ José Méndez

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The Mexican opposition is facing the advance of López Obrador’s authoritarian regime, which threatens to consolidate even before the 2024 presidential elections. Morena, despite its internal conflicts, is projected as the new governing party and the axis of an official alliance that controls more and more states, while the president uses the power of his office to seduce opposition governors, such as the governor of Quintana Roo.

The process of political conquest does not stop. In the next 2 years, 8 governorships will be up for elections and the ruling party has a clear advantage in at least 7 of them, so it could reach the control of up to 25 of the 32 states of the country. This would give the candidate of the pro-government party an almost irreversible advantage in terms of electoral mobilization, making the triumph of an opposition candidate almost impossible.

In short, Mexico would be back in the pre-transition era, with the president controlling all the levers of power and the opposition relegated to a mere testimonial role, while its leaders abandon the ship to join the ruling party’s ship, or remain as sad companions of a new party dictatorship, which could last for decades.

The Mexican opposition faces consensus as a salvation from its impotence

This scenario becomes more and more real as we move towards 2024, among other things because the opposition has been almost completely unable to persuade society. The opposition core includes approximately one-third of the electorate, but that is not enough to win elections, especially when competing against the embryo of a political structure of the State.

Why do I see the scenario as so complicated? Because Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been the most inept president in the modern history of Mexico and his government is, in fact, a complete disaster. However, he still has a popularity rating of over 65%, a higher percentage than he had in the first months of his administration. This support is almost impossible to erode. The people have already picked their candidate, and they decided for AMLO, despite all his blunders and horrors.

In such a scenario, the opposition parties have a real hope of competing against Obradorismo: to ally themselves, to build a sufficiently broad front so that the sum of their political influences and their mobilization capacities can at least constitute a credible threat to obradorismo; and for this, a consensus is essential, something that entails two serious problems.

The first: it is true that the opposition consensus worked reasonably well in the 2021 elections and managed to prevent AMLO from obtaining a two-thirds qualified majority in the Chamber of Deputies. However, under the current conditions, the opposition will not be able to repeat the feat in 2024, since in 2021, 50% of the electoral roll voted, but in the presidential elections, this percentage will increase by at least another 10 points, until it exceeds 60%. These are casual votes, which do not depend so much on party structures, they are simply normal people, who do not vote in ordinary elections, but who do participate when the president is elected… and normal people do not sympathize with the opposition.

The sad reality is that in this year’s elections we saw the full deployment of the opposition forces at play, and it was barely enough to achieve a dignified defeat against the forces of officialism, which have not yet reached their full potential. If Obrador plays his cards right, they will be backed by millions of casual votes in the next presidential election.

La oposición mexicana, ante el abismo del consenso, que irónicamente es su esperanza. Imagen: EFE/Carlos Ramírez
The Mexican opposition, facing the abyss of consensus, which ironically is its hope. Image: EFE/Carlos Ramirez

Second: consensus carries within itself the seeds of failure, because it blurs the identity of the participants and reaffirms them as pragmatic and voracious in the eyes of a society that has ample reason to distrust.

The underlying issue is that, as Margaret Thatcher rightly explained, consensus is “the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no-one believes, but to which no-one objects. —the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead.”

And that is precisely the problem of the opposition consensus, called “Va Por México”. The alliance unites three parties (PAN, PRI and PRD) deeply opposed in their doctrine, values and identity. Therefore, although their national leaderships (and even the ordinary militant) understand that it is necessary to work together to stop AMLO, it is impossible to build an agenda that transcends the anti-AMLO discourse and moves people towards a concrete vision of the future.

In short, the opposition can only stay together if it avoids concrete proposals, without this, it is incapable of putting forward a message of its own that excites voters. Alone, the opposition parties do not have the necessary structures to compete; together they only have the structures, and with those votes they do compete, but they will not win.

At this point, the hope of the opposition is that the ruling party will fracture and collapse under the weight of the voracity of those who feel that AMLO owes them the presidency, or that the whole system will collapse in the absence of a political leader to take the reins after Obrador. Among all the bad options, the hope is that in the end the least ill will turn out, and that is tragic.

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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