Mexico’s life is at stake in the June 6 elections. Before every electoral process it is often said that this is the most important election in history, but this time it is true. Mexican voters will not only renew the Chamber of Deputies, almost all local congresses and half of the governorships, but will also define a new balance of power, the effects of which will be reflected for decades to come.
How did this come to pass?
For almost two centuries of independent life, Mexico lived under a succession of caciques and dictators: democracy was presumed in the laws, but was not lived in reality. That began to change just a little more than 40 years ago, when in 1978 the political transition process began that widened the spaces and options for opposition to the then all-powerful PRI.
This process reached its climax with the 1996 reform, which made the electoral authorities independent from the State. As a result, in 1997 the PRI lost its majority in Congress for the first time and in the year 2000 the presidential power was peacefully alternated.
The transition process continued for almost two more decades, taking power away from the President of the Republic and handing it over to technical bodies, with the idea of leaving behind the disastrous government of whims, in exchange for a technocratic system that would allow better results and fully integrate the country into the global economy.
The process worked, but it didn’t translate into the dramatic improvements that society expected, and on the contrary, it was tainted by growing corruption scandals. This mixture of disappointment and indignation was masterfully exploited by the now president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who arrived at the National Palace backed by the highest percentage of votes in almost 40 years.
Since taking office as President of the Republic (and with increasing intensity in recent months) López Obrador has focused on destroying the reforms promoted within the transition process and returning the country to a situation similar to that which existed in the 1970s: a State party that completely dominates the electoral landscape and an almost omnipotent President who decides everything, with no institutional or political counterweights other than those of his own character.
That is the vision that will be at stake on June 6. Technically, Mexicans will go to the polls to renew the Chamber of Deputies and thousands of local authorities, but basically their votes will constitute a referendum on López Obrador’s political project.
If the ruling party alliance, headed by Morena, wins, AMLO will have the mandate and room for maneuver to consolidate his political project, define at his whim the presidential candidate of the ruling party for 2024 and end the process of conquering the institutions, including the National Electoral Institute and the Bank of Mexico, which will be directly and completely submitted to the authority of the President of the Republic.
Mexico would once again become the country of a single man, of a caudillo, of a dictator.
On the contrary, if the opposition alliance achieves a clear victory in the mid-term elections and manages to recover the parliamentary majority, the Mexican society’s rejection of AMLO’s autocratic project will become evident and the president will face a nightmare scenario, because he will have much less room for maneuver to make decisions, distribute privileges and keep the crowd of “leaders” that make up his political alliance happy.
In this scenario, Obrador would not be able to define a successor to his liking and would be condemned to place himself more and more on the defensive, while many of his former allies become enemies driven by the spite of not having been the president’s heirs.
The resulting disorder will imply that the opposition will have a real possibility of competing for the presidency of the Republic in the general elections of 2024, because they would face an official alliance that will have spent the second half of the Obrador government in a fratricidal war, instead of consolidating its hegemony.
Meanwhile, on the opposition side
The great challenge will be to move from an evidently fragile conjunctural coalition, as is currently the case with the “Va por México” alliance between PAN, PRI and PRD, to a parliamentary coalition with a medium-term perspective and a common legislative agenda. This is precisely what the agreement to be signed on May 24 by the national leaders of these 3 parties consists of, and it is a necessary step towards the final objective of the joint strategy: to launch a single presidential candidate in 2024, with all the challenges that this implies.
Finally, playing apart is Movimiento Ciudadano, the “opposition” party that has bet on keeping its distance from both López Obrador and the opposition alliance. For MC, the ideal scenario implies winning a couple of governorships, including that of Nuevo León (the industrial heart of the country) and positioning itself as an independent force that can negotiate with the others from a position of strength and even present its own presidential candidate with a chance of winning in 2024.
Mexico’s life is on the line
Both the polls and the conversations in the corridors of the campaigns and in the red circle tell us of an officialism that is deflating and an opposition that is advancing. That is why the president looks so active and stressed. That is why they have rushed the desafuero attempt against the PAN governor of Tamaulipas. That is why they approved the counter-reforms on electricity and hydrocarbons. That is why the president takes advantage of any opportunity to mobilize his base and deepen the polarization of the country.
On June 6, AMLO’s future of his authoritarian political project is at stake, and Mexico’s life is at stake, in an election that will be definitive, but anticlimactic. There is no political effervescence in the streets and the campaigns are closer to absurdity than inspiration. This points to a low level of participation in the voting, making the partisan structures of vote mobilization even more important.
This adds yet another layer of uncertainty, because no one knows how effective Morena’s networks will be in mobilizing its supporters in an election where López Obrador does not appear on the ballot, while on the opposition side it also remains to be seen whether the alliance agreed by the PRI, PAN and PRD leaderships is supported in practice by their local leaders, many of whom have deep histories of resentment towards the parties with whom they are now coalitioned.
For the time being, there are two weeks left to fight it out, in the institutions, across oscial at the polls, and even in the courts. Mexico’s future is on the line.