Mexican politics are frustratingly fascinating.
This seems like a paradox, but then again, so does our history as a modern state. With presidential elections 2.5 years away, unlikely candidates and alliances are already beginning to form. This leaving me wondering if this country has any recollection of the political roads we’ve traveled and the costs they’ve instilled on us.
Let’s retrace our steps for a minute. The Mexican Revolution that started 100 years ago was supposed to set the basis for a system, which would alleviate the poverty gap, provide better worker conditions and at the very least, treat citizens with respect and provide the political rights that people lacked.
But this complex era in Mexican history resulted in what Luis Aboites Aguilar called (in a very politically-correct manner) “a political arrangement which made stability possible in the long term.” Along came the time of the PRIismo, an authoritarian regime with a masked one-party system run by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). As they had with Diaz, once again Mexicans deposited their trust in a strong presidential figure who fed them with the possibility of a better tomorrow.
Tired of instability and revolt, society happily welcomed a structure that turned huelguistas (protestors) into sindicalistas (organized union advocates). Far from a democracy, this electoral system continuously rigged elections and left the poor-rich divide unattended, replacing it with a constant rhetoric of “institutionalized revolution.” The message during the first decades of PRIismo was “we’re working on it.”
After their 70-year chance at “institutionalizing revolution” a strong opposition led by a right-leaning party (Partido Acción Nacional–PAN) that had been denied access to power at the federal level was able to bring PRIismo to an end. A young (mostly middle class) generation filled with hope rallied behind soon-to-be-President Vicente Fox under the cry of “Sí se puede” (“Yes, we can”). And on July 2, 2000, yes, they did.
But the 2006 election was characterized by a polarized and heated debate between PAN candidate Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and a charismatic left-wing radical, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD). Left and right battled it out. One crying out against “the rich tyrants that oppressed the peoples” and the other promising that development would result from attracting FDI and promoting employment via a partnership with the private sector. Calderón got the job with 35.9 percent of the vote, only 0.58 percent more than López Obrador.
The aftermath of the 2006 election is well-known: López Obrador did not accept the results, labeled Calderón “The spurious president,” set up camp in
Now there is a new twist in this long-standing political telenovela. The “Yes we can” promise has not produced expected results, leaving Mexicans disillusioned to the point that many believe the next elections will be a landslide. The assumed victor: the PRI.
But how is the incumbent PAN party preparing to avoid this? With the most unlikely (and ridiculous) of alliances. César Nava, national president of PAN has publicly accepted that his party is working on a deal with the PRD to have joint candidates for the upcoming state elections.
The two political parties that were at each other’s throats three years ago, now say “we have some differences, some topics in which we have different views, but those will be left aside.” It seems that the candidates will run under “unity in our conviction to change things.” Change things into what? I guess they’ll cross that bridge when they get to it.
Do the PAN and the PRD believe that Mexicans have forgotten a country under siege after the candidate from one of these parties would not accept the victory of the other one? And for that matter, have all of us forgotten the empty promises made by the PRI for 70 years? Are we now ready to give them another chance at “working on it?”
I am not sure who is lacking political memory, the political parties or the citizens subject to their game. What I am sure of is that the same reasons that brought turmoil to this country a 100 years ago are present and relevant. We are not ready for history to repeat itself.
*Arjan Shahani is a guest blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in