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A couple of days before Christmas, the Mexican opposition managed to agree and gave the country a coalition for the 2021 elections. The National Action (PAN), Institutional Revolutionary (PRI), and Democratic Revolution (PRD) parties will compete together in 171 of the country’s 300 districts, with the aim of taking control of the Chamber of Deputies away from López Obrador’s leftist alliance.
The small, serious problem is that this “gift” seems almost doomed to failure. What they presented via Facebook on December 22nd and then registered at the national electoral authority is a dull, bland, tasteless stew. More than raising hopes, it evokes a mixture of distrust and resignation, two ingredients that are not usually part of winning recipes.
The ghost of elections past
For starters, the coalition’s name: “Va por México” (loosely translated as For You Mexico) does not state anything concrete. However, the presentation’s format was even worse: A one hour, boring and predictable “live” broadcast on Facebook. The “citizens’ support” was provided by assumed social leaders talking at a cheap webcam from their home computer, with bad internet and a tone of voice more like that of an annoyed office worker than that of a group of fighters against tyranny. Their testimonies were followed by even more disposable speeches by the leaders of the three political parties, all with a message and a set straight out of the early 1990s.
Nothing in the event recalled disruption, momentum, or actual conviction. On the contrary, it was clear that both the supposed social representatives and the party leaders were there to fulfill the perfunctory minimum in a project with which none of them is emotionally committed.
Beyond the form, which was disastrous, there is also a severe problem with the message they conveyed: It felt dull, lacking flavor, while reeking of technocracy and arrogance. This paragraph from the official statement frames them in full:
“Va por México proposes a model of a country ruled by law: dynamic, modern, innovative and competitive, that bets on renewable energies, social market economy and one that connects profitably with the globalized world.”
The text is written with the arrogance and condescension typical of “experts” who see the country from the opaque glass of their designer offices in Polanco or Santa Fe, where they hang their beautiful diplomas from ITAM or American universities. In other words, the same self-absorbed fools that the Mexican electorate flatly rejected in the 2018 elections, when they voted for Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Two years after those elections, the supposed technocratic geniuses still don’t understand what happened. They are essentially repeating the cold and technical message that failed miserably in the previous presidential campaign. The paragraphs of their announcement seem to be taken from Ricardo Anaya’s campaign. And that is not a good sign.
The technocratic campaign, again
They talk about globalization, renewable energies, and the “model of a country” ruled by the law. They don’t understand that ordinary citizens don’t give a damn about globalization. They don’t realize that the souls who go to work every day find it irrelevant whether renewable energy is available or not. They don’t get that talking about a “model of a country” doesn’t mean anything to the people, and that talking about a Mexico “ruled by the law” doesn’t connect with a society that has seen for years how the law is only a pretext for the benefit of crony interests.
Even when they talk about truly compassionate issues, such as the medical treatments of people with cancer, they unnecessarily resort to the technicality of “oncologic drugs”.
Incredibly, they don’t devote a word to the rising tide of crime, which is the great tragedy for tens of millions of Mexicans. Nor do the coalition parties recognize, even on the rebound, that the crisis the country is experiencing did not magically appear two years ago. Obrador made it worse, but these crises come from long ago and were provoked (or at least neglected) by both PRI and the PAN governments. In short: a lot of technocracy and little self-awareness.
A dull Christmas present for the Mexican republic
A successful coalition between the PRI and the PAN is a challenging task. For almost 90 years, each of those parties consolidated their identity as a rejection of what the other represented. Therefore, it is understandable that their respective supporters are not happy to vote for a candidate who literally goes on the ballot representing their hated rivals.
The situation worsens because it’s not clear whose principles the coalition candidates will stand for if/when they win a seat in the Chamber of Deputies. Once you get the speeches out of the way, both professional politicians and average citizens perceive the coalition as a movement focused on sustaining each party’s bureaucracy, or -at most- as a mere “anti” López Obrador effort.
In these conditions, the real hope of Va por México is not in the passionate conviction of citizens, but in the discipline of the party structures to vote for whoever they order them to in an election that could reach record levels of abstention. Perhaps that’s why the coalition’s announcement event reeked of bureaucracy and that sour style of the Mexican political class.
Thus, without recognizing their own multiple faults, without making an effort to understand the citizens whose vote they want, without correcting the errors of 2018, and without looking beyond that technocratic arrogance that led them to failure, Va por México is born. They have barely six months to convince their supporters and the general population that they’re different – and better – than Obrador.
Will they succeed? The statement of Va por México closes affirming that “from the Chamber of Deputies the necessary legal scaffolding will be designed to face the post-pandemic scenario.” Yeah, once again: “the necessary legal scaffolding will be designed” That’s dull, a promise that nowhere in the world attracts citizens or brings votes to the polls. So, either they correct course or election day will not have a nochebuena.
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”