Will the opposition be relevant in 2014?

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2013 was a historical year regarding Constitutional reforms that have been approved by Congress. Undoubtedly, the skill of those operators close to the federal government within the Legislative Power as well as the alignment of the leaders from the two main opposition parties via the Pact for Mexico were key factors in the materialization of those initiatives issued from the Executive Power. Regarding that last point, the dominating factions within PAN and PRD may “show off” that they have been participants – or co-responsible, whichever might suit – of the reforms, without forgetting the economic prerogatives attained via the Expenditure Budget. What is now the scenario that the opposition will face during 2014?

Whether the Pact for Mexico remains or not, 2014 will be a complex year. From the perspective of their inner dynamics, both PRD as well as PAN should be in the middle of a renewal process of their national leaderships. Currently, none of those processes has set a date for the suffrages to begin, despite that the tenure of Gustavo Madero in PAN expired on December 4th, while Jesús Zambrano’s at PRD is about conclude in the coming months. Nevertheless, the main conflict of both parties is not the definition of these deadlines, but the hard and potentially destructive power struggles. PAN could face a similar situation like the one occurred in 1992, with the so-called “foristas” who opposed to the collaboration between its party’s leadership with the administration of then-President Salinas. Regarding PRD, the issue of the frequent struggles among their “tribes” should face a key element: the transformation of the Movement for National Regeneration (MORENA) into a political party. The aforementioned movement, led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, once it has been constituted as an entity that may receive public funds and a place within the political race, it will surely attract several members of other left-wing parties, including those of PRD. Thus, taking the situation to an extreme, the two main fronts on the opposition would be entering into a division stage whose greatest beneficiary will, of course, be the party currently in office.

If the scenarios of opposition were to be seen in a more optimistic way, that is to say, if PAN and PRD may avoid significant separations and could find a project of internal unity, the panorama still does not seem easy. In Congress, the main political arena, the PRI government has enough allies inside the Green Party and the New Alliance Party not only to issue almost single-handedly any pending issue on the secondary legislation of 2013 reforms, but it also has the possibility of manipulating the aforementioned processes in the exchange of favors for itself, thus, erasing the opposition’s influence. Likewise, the PRI ability to operate would increase further if, using artificial injection of public resources, 2014 were to be presented as a year of acceptable economic growth. This would provide a false, though believable, impression that the federal government is leading Mexico through the right path. This bonus would help PRI members in the face of the 2015 intermediate elections, leaving the opposition with few arguments to defend themselves. The latter is aggravated with the lack of a clear leadership on both PAN and PRD, as well as in the absence of a strategy to recover the general population’s support.

Currently, the problem with the opposition is not so much to have collaborated with the government through the Pact for Mexico; in fact it is not even the ghost of an internal breakup of the parties. According to the 41st Constitutional article, “the political parties aim to promote the participation of the general population within the democratic life”. However, after Madero’s statement, “political matters are not an issue for citizens, they don’t give a damn, it is an issue which they don’t feel a connection with”, there is a tacit recognition of the party’s lack of efficiency, especially those that are in the opposition, as to reverse the citizen disinterest stated by the PAN leader. Apathy is the preferred way for the status quo.

Ironically, perhaps the greater challenge this year will be for PRI, since now that it will have the possibility of promoting legislation without the support of the large parties, it will have to face its own forces and the interest that they represent. It is easy to underestimate this fact, but the experience of last year suggests that an important function of PAN and PRD was to “discipline” PRI, preventing the latter’s inner groups from dominating the process. In the absence of such pressure, this year the dynamics will prove to be different and revealing at the same time.


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