Three Years

share on:

The elections are over, now comes the tallying. For some the elections went well, for others poorly, but all have to deal with the new reality. There are many important lessons to be learned.
A succinct rundown of what I observed in the elections and during the subsequent days is the following: in the gubernatorial races, except in  the states of Campeche and Colima, the voters penalized the party in power: it turns out that voting was much more productive for those who are upset than abstaining from casting their ballot or resorting to annulling it; the Morena (Lopez Obrador’s) Party was the big winner, followed hard on by the Verde Party; the PAN and the PRD are the big losers, both due to internal divisory turmoil; the PRI retained its position in Congress, emblematic of the capacity to buy and manipulate votes more than its having been abruptly overhauled. Today there are two actors in the arena that will surely compete between themselves in 2018: Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), and Jaime Rodríguez (Bronco), the new governor of Nuevo León elected on the independent ticket.
There are explanations for each of these factors, but what seems most important to me to emphasize is that the Pact for Mexico turned out to be lethal for the PAN and the PRD; it’s hard to believe that the result for the PRI in Congress reflects something distinct: except for the reforms eventually transforming the country and those parties capitalizing on that, the cost of the perception of paralysis and the sensation that the opposition disappeared is unfathomable.
Each party and candidate confronted particular circumstances but the result reflects a more sophisticated electorate than appeared to be so at first glance. In the state of Querétaro, for example, the voters made it clear that they wanted to avoid one party from staying in power, despite the exiting governor being popular and widely recognized. On the other hand, the elections confirmed that the average voter is willing to sell his vote and is honorable in complying with his part of the bargain: perhaps this is not praiseworthy from the electoral standpoint, but it speaks of a capacity, and above all a disposition, to comply with contracts and agreements, something not to be held at all in contempt in other ambits given the absence of an effective judicial system.
It may be that the paramount lesson that the elections reveal is that the country finds itself faced with a problem of essence: the political system doesn’t work. The voters may be increasingly sophisticated in their manner of casting their vote or messaging but that does not compensate for the dysfunctionality of the system in its entirety and its lack of representativeness, and that’s the crux of the matter.
Mexico has for decades been trying to change things so that nothing changes. Certainly, the economy has changed a great deal but, in the mode of Il Gattopardo, even the unmentionable has been done to preserve the old system’s benefits and privileges. While no one can deny the enormous advances on diverse fronts, the power structure remains the same, with the exception of the incorporation of the PAN and the PRD into the same ancestral corruption: everything has been changed so that nothing would change. Now the cost of this is visible by any reckoning.
The present government espoused the mantra of the last decades that a set of reforms was urgent and that these, in themselves, would transform the country. It was said that the problems were “over-diagnosed”; what was never said was that, in order for them to bear fruit, the reforms had to modify the power structure in general and that in each reformed sector. Today it appears obvious that what’s lacking is actual governing and that the reforms, necessary as they are, are not feasible in the absence of a government capable of   fulfilling its duty. The renouncing of the transcending reform, the educative one, is a flagrant example of the absence of vision and perspective or, at the least, of a huge perversion of priorities.
The heart of the matter lies in that it’s not possible to attempt to change the country as the current government vowed it would if the function of power as well as its distribution is not brought to the table. A reform of the country –the same in a specific sector as in general- cannot be carried out if the number one criterion is not to affect groups close to the power structure; and success in reforming cannot be attempted if the criterion underlying the reform is that of not altering the power structure. To reform is nothing other than affecting vested interests; if that is not wanted or cannot be done, the reform is impossible.
What’s to be done? I only see two possible scenarios. One is to continue pretending that nothing’s going on, that the electoral result legitimatizes that “strategy”. The other scenario, the coveted one, is for the political class to recognize the urgency to act.
The risk of doing nothing is the eventual collapse of the system: it could be that the total political arrangement would come plunging down (sufficient to observe Russia as an obvious illustration), that the anti-system watersheds that proliferate all over grow and become unstoppable, or that the current situation provokes the advent of a reactionary movement that undermines not only what has been achieved with so many hardships for so long, but that it returns the country to the (figurative) Stone Age. Venezuela no longer seems inconceivable.
What the political class and the government don’t understand is the “what for” of their function. Beyond their interests as a group, its work must come down to earth with regard to systematic and substantive improvements in transforming terrains such as productivity, legality, education and corruption. As long as this does not occur, the strident sound of the political downward turn will continue to erode the legitimacy of the system and the viability of the country. In addition to that of its own interests.
The present moment proffers –and demands- an exceptional opportunity for a great leader to transform the country. That leadership could materialize from the government itself or derive from some of the actors who have displayed their natural gifts and remarkable capacity for action and recovery. Whoever seizes that opportunity will decide the future.

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).