AMLO outside the Senate, Monday, October 26

Worker's Party Deputy Mario di Costanzo Tears Apart Carstens Economic Plan

Friday, July 17, 2009

Election Round-Up

The PRI victory in last week's legislative elections (36.68% to 27.98% for the PAN and 12.20% for the PRD) can be seen through a variety of prisms:

1.) Mexico as the battered wife, worn down by decades of rising wealth inequality, strength sapped by the emigration of its youngest and strongest to the United States, and even more brutally beaten over the last three years by a road-to-nowhere war against drugs that has sent 12,000, including 12 federal policeman just a few days ago in Michoacan, to their graves in various bits and pieces. After experimenting with life on her own (Mexican democracy 2000-2006 RIP) and finding it, with its frauds, corruption, violence and social unrest, not so easy to manage solo, the bruised wife returns, humilliated, to the devil she knows. Better a regular - and predictable - beating that's been going on for 80 years than having to work things out in a brave, new, PRI-free world. Oh, what a wonderful world that would be...

2.) People didn't really vote for the PRI at all. Well, think about it. Overall turnout was about 44% of registered voters, somewhat higher than the direst predictions of absentionism, but nevertheless, well over half of voters steered well clear of the polls. Of those, over 5% spoiled their ballot papers and 64%, in total, voted against the PRI. Do all the math (somebody else did; I didn't), and about 16% of Mexicans on election day actually went out and voted PRI. They just voted for everybody else even less.

3.) The PRI's never really left power in any event. Ever since the fraudulent administration-less-one of Salinas de Gortari, the PRI cleverly started to allow themselves to lose in certain parts of the country, although retaining control of the strings behind the scenes. Thus, the first gubernatorial wins for the PAN in the 90's and the first municipal victories for the PRD. In this lens, the great "democratic transition" of 2000 was a big sound-and-light show for international consumption, for the oligarchic elite was barely affected a ripple by it, and although a few PRI bureaucrats lost their jobs, the larger interests simply merged smoothly into the PRIAN. After the magna-fraud of 2006, the PAN required the presence of the PRI in Congress for the Little Napoleon to take his Flash-Gordon oath of office, and the PRI hasn't stopped blackmailing them with it ever since.

4.) In a phrase: out-of-control federalism. The PRI may have nominally lost control of the federal government (see point 3 above), but they still control the large majority of governerships, a fact which was further reinforced last week, where the PAN lost just about everything they could possibly lose, and the hapless PRD saw three of its gubernatorial candidates decline in favor of other candidates before the elections even took place! Just as the case of Oaxaca 2006 showed that "sub-national authoritarianism" can be just as brutal, or more so, than federal authoritarianism, the elections of 2009 reinforced the fact that state money can just as well be illegally diverted to vote-buying and palm-greasing as federal money can. In Mexico, the federal government subsidizes a large part of state budgets, but its powers of audit over those very funds are extraordinarily weak. Ergo: effectively blank checks being sent out to all 32 states on a regular basis. Free tacos and a bus ride to the polls, anyone?

And to conclude, the "Deconstructing Mexico" award for the most singular electoral event of 2009 goes to the Mexico City delegation of Ixtapalapa. Here, in a classic example of let's-do-anything-to-screw-López Obrador, the unholy collusion of the "New Left" (Ni Izquierda; see my previous post), Felipe Calderon and his cronies on the Federal Electoral Tribunal did everything in their power to thwart the wishes of the electorate, and came out with egg on their respective faces. The story: Ixtapalapa, population two million, is one of the poorest of Mexico City's delegations. In the primary elections for the PRD (which retained its pre-eminent position in the City in the most recent elections) for the city assembly, the two factions of the party sparred in open combat: the New Left vs. the United Left (Izquierda Unida), the Obrador-supporting bloc led by Alejandro Encinas. In the primary, the United Left candidate, Clara Brugada, handily defeated the New Left candidate. With support from above, the New Left candidate appealed - after the legal deadline for so doing had expired - her appeal was accepted by the Federal Tribunal after being rejected by all local courts, and surprise! the Federal Tribunal (if anyone still has any illusions about their objectivity, please look into medication) annulled just enough precincts to erase the 5,000 vote margin and hand the victory to Brugada's opponent, although they waited long enough so that the ballots had already been printed with Brugada's name as the putative PRD candidate! The response was swift and organized: in a matter of weeks, López Obrador rallied his supporters to vote for the Worker's Party (PT), which candidate, in the case that he won, agreed to decline in favor of Brugada taking her rightful seat. In sum, voters in a very poor district had to be informed in a couple of short weeks that, if they wanted to vote for Clara Brugada, they were going to have to vote against Clara Brugada, even though Clara Brugada's name was going to be on the ballot. Confused? The voters of Ixtapalapa weren't. Turning their backs on the PRD, they handed the Worker's Party a handy majority in last week's elections, Clara Brugada goes to the Assembly despite everything against her, and López Obrador remains in the ring for one more round.