The Coalitions Are Coming, the Coalitions Are Coming!

The Mexican Opposition Discusses a Common Front

A Mexican coalition of opposition parties is in the works. Their goal is to prevent President López from gaining even more power after the 2021 elections. These parties have been enemies for decades. They believe they are doing something historic, while President López believes his movement is also a landmark transformation of Mexico. History seems to be in everyone´s mouth these days, and everyone sees them-self as a hero. But is it really so?

As I watched and talked about the US elections during the past month, I remember a friend expressing amazement at Joe Biden´s four decades in national politics. We talked about our similar figures: eternal labor union leaders, life-long senators, and governors with their padrinos (political godfathers). Mexican politicians previously congratulated themselves on being different than their northern neighbors. What made our country great was that the Mexican Constitution prohibited the consecutive reelection of local officials and congress members. How does a mayor dare to seek office again? Was their three-year term not enough? 

Such an attitude has a historical explanation. At the turn of the last century, Mexico had been governed by Gral. Porfirio Diaz for thirty years. Fighters in the Mexican Revolution (1910 - 1920) made it a point to depose anyone who wished to perpetuate their power through so-called democratic means. Francisco I. Madero, a liberal ideologue and politician, helped ignite the spark. He was a presidential candidate for the National Antireelectionist Party. In October of 1910 (“While Lenin read a book on Marx...” for you Don McLean fans), he published a call to arms. His manifesto (prepared in San Antonio, Texas, and printed in San Luis Potosí) displayed a rallying cry: “Sufragio efectivo, no reelección.” It is a catchy way of saying, “Casted vote, no reelection.” 

The hero faced a tragic death in 1913, but the Revolution eventually triumphed. His slogan was even printed as a header or footer in all manner of government documents until recently. A century later, after many debates and the influence of new public management theories, things have gone the opposite way. Consecutive reelection is now a thing, even if the details on electoral procedures are still being polished. For example, must a public official take a leave of absence for campaigning? (Consensus says: yes) How does one register as a candidate without belonging to a party (Answer: gather enough signatures). What happens if the public official won as an independent and sought office again? (Thread through the previous two parentheses)

Some in the opposition fear that the president and his movement will hang on to power after the 2024 elections. Porfirio Díaz, who led many successful battles, even against the French Invasion in the 19th century, fought against then-president Benito Juárez because the latter´s overdid his time in office. Díaz eventually took office in 1877 and went into exile in 1911. His shadow still looms, for better or for worse, on Mexican politics. President Andres Manuel López fashions himself after Juárez and continuously insults the opposition and the media as neoporfirists. 

For now, coalitions between disparate parties have been approved for the national congress. They have had to fight and negotiate over former grievances and accusations of corruption. For example, Gustavo Madero, a PAN party leader whose great uncle called for Revolution in 1910, has publicly opposed such an alliance. PRI has been called a well-oiled election-winning machine with dubious methods. PRD pushes for a socially-liberal agenda that conservatives cross-themselves over. 

The discrepancy among platforms is a point not missed by MORENA, the party founded by the president. Its leader, Mario Delgado, has said that the alliance just confirms what President López has said all along: they are all part of the same mafia. (What Mr. Trump called “The Swamp”). Twitter banter rapidly fired back. Users reminded him that current cabinet members also formerly belonged to other parties, some with a dark past. 

In some states, discussions have happened to allow such a coalition to work for nominating candidates to other positions, not only for congress. This idea has not been as well-received as the joint legislative front. The alliance has been informally called “Todos Unidos contra MORENA” (All United Against MORENA), or TUMOR if you will, the same word in Spanish for a clump of diseased cells. The president´s supporters say they will fight to prevent “this cancer from returning to power.” 

Elections are coming in June of next year, and many things can happen. Let´s hope Mexican democracy does not get sick. Stay tuned.