2012 Challenges

share on:

A Persian proverb says that “when it’s dark enough you can see the stars”. The national panorama does not seem sufficiently black to be capable of seeing everything that occurs, but it appears evident that, as the recently deceased scholar Guillermo O’Donnell noted, the main reason for disenchantment resides in having believed that “the brickwork of alternation of parties in government is the home of democracy”. Alternation of parties in government -the defeat of PRI- changed the reality of power but has not led us to the construction of a functional political system.
At least on the plane of political theory, there are two ways of constructing a political system. One, in the fashion of the social contract theories of the XVII and XVIII Centuries, derived from the principle that humans end up joining society to resolve the problems that they confront in an inhospitable environment. For Hobbes the motivation is the need for security, for Locke the need to protect people’s property and for Rousseau the constitution of an organized society that guarantees equality. These treatise writers were addressing the founding moments of human society.
Countries that have achieved the construction of broadly institutionalized and consolidated political systems respond to one of two scenarios: those that have for centuries been constructing and correcting errors and adjusting processes, little by little shaping centennial traditions that guarantee their stability. If one observes the evolution of English democracy over the centuries one will note how diverse crises, some of them violent, came to resolve themselves until at last the climate of civility was procured that is observed today but that was not always so. Others, like the French, attained their own equilibrium working along by trial and error until they achieved a stable system based on a presidential-parliamentary hybrid that is quite common in the world.
The other way of constructing a political system holds fast to the efforts made by the great statesmen of late on encountering real or potential situations of conflict in their societies. These examples show how it is possible to leap decades or even centuries from the systematic construction of political accords among the main actors, parties, or political forces. There are diverse examples that illustrate this route. Each is distinct but what all have in common is the fact that there was an intentional construction of agreements oriented toward achieving a swift democratic consolidation.
In Spain, Adolfo Suárez understood that the road to constructing a future entertained only two pathways: the confrontation that would arise from recreating the divisions that led to the Spanish Civil War of the thirties or an agreement among all of the political forces on the mechanisms that would allow for constructing and concluding a transition process in a short period. His summons was issued to all political forces -those living in exile as well as those residing in the country, including the most representative leaderships of the entire political and historic spectrum- to agree upon a set of principal elements that would enable the construction of a new political regime. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela encountered a distinct problem: how to contain the avenging spirits of the Black crowds in order to preserve the jobs generated by Whites, within a civilized framework of coexistence. Both examples, of a half dozen of illustrative cases, suggest that there is no reason for a political transition to get stuck at its first stage as has happened with us. There are ways to break the stalemate.
In Mexico the transition has been so drawn out and complex that there isn’t even an agreement on when it began or how it should conclude. Each party defines democracy according to its expectation regarding the electoral results: for the PRI Mexico has always been democratic, for the PAN democracy began in 2000 and for the PRD it has yet to commence. Different from Spain, here there was no agreement on the procedures, thus the sole measure has been the result. With a country divided more or less into thirds (the history of the past two decades), the only possibility of advancing -save for an imposition- lies in the creation of a mechanism that guarantees fair distribution of the benefits of exercising power, independently of who wins the elections. Unfortunately, our system of proportional representation does not guarantee this.
A great impediment to any agreement lies in the unwillingness of everyone to cede something. On the one hand, the national psyche is so fired up that the very notion of ceding becomes unsustainable. Had they, to cite an obvious case the exiled communists or pro-Francoists, conducted themselves like this, Spain would never have achieved the pacts that launched the transformation that has rendered the society and nation that it is today.
Each of the political parties is experiencing real restrictions: the PRI has not been reformed and continues being dependent on many of the most recalcitrant interests that impede any change. The PAN commingles sufficient dogmatic and anti-PRIist elements to render any understanding with its historical rival highly difficult. The PRD evinces an irreconcilable rift between the exPRIists who continue living in the Echeverria-Lopez Portillo era of the seventies, and a modern and emerging social democracy. Only a grand coalition would empower the strengthening and privileging of each party’s groups and leaderships that retain a positive view of the country’s future, leaving behind all who continue to contemplate their umbilicus and harbor old dogmas that will never be the reality.
There are two ways to conceive a promising future. One, that of Spain, would embody a grand agreement on procedure. In the case of that nation, the agreement consisted essentially of the preservation of the Francoist legality until a new constitution and the electoral and political processes derived from it were approved. That is, a procedure was agreed upon, not an objective.
Our history of the last two decades demonstrates that an agreement similar to the Spanish one is impossible. First, because experience, above all 2006, is evidence of this. Second and more important, because differently from Spain, in Mexico there is no experience or history of civilized behavior (even under an authoritarian regime) such as there was there and, in any case, because there the dictator died and here the same party persists. Mexicans need to break with the past without endangering stability or the chance of a better future.
For these reasons, given our presidential system, only a coalition government would countenance the splicing together of all of the political forces, conferring true representation to on all of Mexican society and forging the construction of agreements inside the government as a means of consolidating an effective transition platform that breaks with the paralyzing inertia of the present and confers full legitimacy upon the new government.

share on:
Luis Rubio

Luis Rubio

He is a contributing editor of Reforma and his analyses and opinions often appear in major newspapers and journals in Mexico, the US and Europe (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio).