Estimados lectores: el día de ayer recibí el siguiente mensaje de parte de una persona que respeto y admiro intelectualmente como a pocas. Francisco Ibarra es un ciudadano hidrocálido y buen amigo al que tuve el gusto de conocer durante mis estudios de maestría. Sus breves líneas compartidas bajo el título de “De Primaveras Mexicanas” son testimonio de un proceso mental equilibrado, razonado y fundamentado. Espero disfruten su lectura como yo lo hice. Paco, un abrazo hermano.
De Primaveras Mexicanas, por Francisco Ibarra
Hace un par de días, leí en el muro de Facebook de un amigo un mensaje que decía: “¿Será este el inicio de la primavera mexicana?” Comparaba, con ese breve texto, el movimiento social que dio fin a casi 30 años de presidencia de Hosni Mubarak en Egipto, con las marchas en contra de Peña Nieto, que ocurrieron en México el fin de semana. No milito en partido político alguno y tengo excelentes amigos en todos ellos y, desde esa libertad, me gustaría compartir con ustedes algunas reflexiones sobre el tema.
En primer lugar, la participación ciudadana debe celebrarse. La asistencia a marchas y protestas de cualquier índole es un derecho que habla muy bien de nuestra perfectible pero funcional democracia.
Quienes opinan en contrario han sido acallados por los cuatro candidatos (sí, los cuatro) que rápidamente hicieron público su compromiso con la libre expresión de las ideas. México requiere de una ciudadanía más activa y participativa y, por ello, debemos aplaudir manifestaciones como la de los estudiantes de la Ibero.
En segundo término, y sobre la forzada comparación entre lo ocurrido en Egipto y lo que ha pasado en tierra Azteca, quisiera preguntarles:
en un país donde podemos protestar de cuanta cosa nos venga en gana, contamos con elecciones libres, existe un congreso que se opone fuertemente al ejecutivo, hay gobernadores de todos los colores y la competencia electoral es sumamente intensa, ¿podemos igualar el movimiento que marcha para mostrar su desprecio a Peña con el de la “primavera árabe”, donde los ciudadanos no tuvieron otra opción que tomar las calles para derrocar al tirano? Me parece evidente que la respuesta es negativa y, por tanto, habrá que tomar estas marchas como lo que son: una expresión política más, dentro de las muchas que hay y habrá en un país tan plural como el nuestro.
Un tercer punto que debemos analizar es cómo el candidato de las izquierdas, AMLO, ha buscado – hábilmente, por cierto – apropiarse de las marchas estudiantiles. ¿Por qué si aparentemente en las encuestas (GEA-ISA) no le ha dado resultados?
Como contexto recordemos que en 2006, al perder la elección, López convocó a una movilización social para (1) tomar el Congreso de la Unión, (2) mandar al diablo a las instituciones electorales, (3) impedir que Felipe Calderón tomara posesión como presidente y (4) cerrar Paseo de la Reforma por un largo tiempo. Desde mi punto de vista, este astuto político está preparando terreno para algo muy similar. Ante una victoria de Peña, su discurso será que los de arriba lo impusieron porque, aunque haya obtenido mayoría relativa, el pueblo votó engañado por los medios de comunicación. Si Peña gana por menos del 50%, significaría entonces que la mayoría de los mexicanos no lo quiere y habría que convocar a los estudiantes a tomar las calles para impedir que juramente. ¿Democracia? No mientras esté controlada por Televisa, nos dirán, como si estuviéramos imposibilitados a decidir.
¿Suena descabellado? No creo. Mediante una serie de medidas legales, el PRD busca impedir en el IFE el conteo rápido con lo que se retrasaría considerablemente la declaración de un ganador. Algo preparan y, ya hemos visto, son muy buenos en ello.
En fin, que ellos hagan su lucha que nosotros haremos la nuestra. Yo me siento mayor de edad y si voto por tal o cuál candidato no lo haré porque Televisa, TV Azteca, La Jornada, Carmen Aristegui, Reforma o Proceso lo promuevan, sino por convencimiento propio. Ante las declaraciones de algunos, los invito a separar la aplaudible expresión ciudadana de la reprochable manipulación política. Insisto en que debemos debatir, opinar y contrastar ideas pero, sobre todo, y ante los últimos acontecimientos, recordar que en democracia, la mayor marcha, la más efectiva manifestación y la más sonora protesta es la que se hace en las urnas, no en las calles. Respetemos pues, lo que la mayoría decida.
Les comparto este par de videos. Vale la pena mencionar que aunque en ambos casos se trata de gente del campamento de EPN, siendo honestos TODOS sabemos que estos ejemplos están presentes en el apoyo a todos los candidatos. ESTO es México.
Tú que sí puedes, tú que no tienes excusa: razona tu voto. No te pido que apoyes al mismo candidato que decida apoyar yo. Te pido que cuando vayas a las urnas lo hagas con convicción y que puedas decir con tranquilidad que tu decisión fue responsable, en base a la información más confiable que hayas podido obtener (me consta que es difícil en estos tiempos de desinformación, pero echándole ganas sí se puede encontrar).
Porque tú no tienes excusa. Ellos sí.
Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Mexican Electoral Politics Hit Rock Bottom”, published on Apr. 17th, 2012. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.
The 2012 electoral process is the most uninspiring we’ve seen in recent history. Therefore it’s no surprise that Mexican society is increasingly disenfranchised with the political system. In fact, trust in the political elite is at an all-time low. Where interest groups saw possibilities of working hand in hand with the government in 2000 and 2006, the division between those governing and those being governed grows day by day.
The age group most alien to the electoral process this year will be young adults. A recent UNDP-sponsored study carried out by the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) posits that 7 out of every 10 voters ages 18-29 will not turn out to vote due to “disenchantment with Mexican democracy.” Enrique Cuna Pérez, the head of the sociology department at the UAM, points out that Mexican adolescents do believe in democracy but not in the way it is implemented in the country. “Young people are not shying away from democracy as a system, they are shying away from Mexican democracy. They consider themselves as democratic people. They understand the importance of voting but they are not willing to participate in Mexican democracy as it stands today,” says Cuna.
There are many reasons for this. For one, people are finding it harder to believe in and rally for the different candidates. The turn that political campaigns have taken—toward destructive criticism, finger-pointing and whining—is far from inspiring. Since the actual political platforms and proposals show nothing new, candidates are focusing on projecting their persona, trying to get people to believe in them, but they are doing it by saying “you can’t believe in the other candidates” as opposed to showing the country why they are fit to lead.
Enrique Peña Nieto, who according to the latest BGC-Excelsior poll leads the race at 50 percent of voter preference, is doing what he does best: photo-ops with as little speech as possible in the different states he visits. He continues to be the one to beat, though the reason is based more on publicity saturation than substance. Doing what his Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) does best, towns all over the country are now flooded with enormous billboards showing the candidate as a man of the people, hugging an over-eager supporter.
Josefina Vázquez Mota’s party, the ruling Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), has recently launched a tactical attack toward Peña Nieto’s credibility, running radio and television spots that label him a liar based on commitments made during his tenure as governor of Mexico state and presumably did not deliver on. While this may be effective in bringing Peña Nieto’s numbers down, the campaign does nothing to engage young voters or to build up a constructive conversation on the future of the country. The candidate will likely use the upcoming presidential debate to take a stab at Peña Nieto’s list of undelivered promises.
And Andrés Manuel López Obrador? He’s been gradually abandoning his more moderate stance and become militant and combatant. Slowly but surely, we start to see the López of old. Worried about the growing trend of this election becoming a two-person race and himself being relegated to a respectable—but distant third—player (the same poll places him dropping to 20 percent of voter preference, 9 points behind Vázquez Mota), he has chosen to go back to accusing “the system” of being against him and the PRI and PAN of working together to minimize his participation in the race. Most recent outbursts include saying that the upcoming presidential debate structure somehow favors the PRI candidate and that the current PRI-PAN confrontation over Peña Nieto’s credibility is “a smoke screen to detract attention from Peña Nieto’s campaign spending.”
But the presidential race is not the only reason young people have stopped believing in Mexican democracy. A lot of it has to do with the negligence shown by the Mexican Congress, which has hijacked President Felipe Calderón’s proposed structural reforms for political means and become completely stagnant. Add to this the level of impudence shown by all parties with regard to the candidates they’ve put forward for upcoming legislative elections and you start to see why a low voter turnout is likely in 2012.
The party lists include such individuals as Dolores Padierna, wife of René Bejarano who in 2004 was the subject of a video scandal showing him taking wads of cash from a shady Argentine businessman. There’s also Fernando Larrazabal, the mayor from Monterrey whose brother Jonás until recently presumably ran an extortion scheme charging casinos for their right to operate. Emilio Gamboa was the subject of a political scandal in 2006 due to a leaked phone conversation linking him to child pornographer Kamel Nacif. With this representing part of the future of Mexico’s Congress, it’s no surprise that young voters want nothing to do with it.
As a result, Mexican electoral politics have hit rock bottom. The political elite would do well to stop ignoring this important trend and work to regain the public’s trust. Otherwise, Mexico’s emerging democracy could prove to be more fragile than they think.
Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Mexico’s Presidential Race: Running on Air” , published on Feb. 15th, 2012. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.
The stage is finally set for the presidential race between Josefina Vázquez Mota (PAN), Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD/PT) and Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI/PVEM). What is about to unfold in the coming months is a barrage of party propaganda and news media stories designed to pull the undecided electorate toward one or the other candidates, but the actual content of the messages will surely show the lack of political consciousness in Mexico.
The product of a school system in crisis, a large portion of Mexico’s constituency is comprised of uneducated voters. Moreover, for those lucky enough to have gone through formal schooling, two essential things are missing: development of a widespread civic/political culture and embedding the capacity for critical thinking. With regard to elections, Mexicans’ decisions have traditionally been based on a simplistic understanding of what candidates represent, if we like the way they talk and even their looks.
A very young and sensationalist media also works against the creation of a politically informed voter base. Mainstream newspapers and TV networks are more interested in covering and making fun of the latest verbal gaffe by one of the candidates than really doing an in-depth analysis of the actual platforms they are running on. And the worst part is some of the current candidates have caught wind of this so their campaign focus will be less on substance and more on giving the media what they want in order to get more exposure. A secondary concern is the actual proposals and solutions to the country’s biggest challenges.
Of the three candidates, the only one who has provided public discourse with a somewhat clear and consistent direction is López Obrador. To be fair, his campaign is six years ahead of the other two but that doesn’t excuse the fact that Vázquez and Peña have been unable to effectively communicate what they stand for and what their governments would seek. They might not even be trying to do this, as they’ve found they can try to win the election through other strategies.
Today we know that López Obrador opposes the neoliberal model and his macroeconomic policies are less focused on healthy management of public debt and more on building infrastructure. In his presidency, public spending would likely go up via populist programs, less worried about sustainable finance (the way his administration ran Mexico City). We know he opposes the military’s involvement in the war on drugs and gang-related violence, though we are not yet clear on his proposal for an effective alternative. Because he includes it in his rhetoric, we are clear on his views on supporting the agricultural sector and the ever-pervasive and violent SME (Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas), a union which represents employees of a public company that doesn’t exist anymore. His foreign affairs policies would likely skew away from the globalization dynamic and steer more toward regional bloc building with Latin America. Somewhat ironically, being open about his platform has done very little to help AMLO gain support. According to a recent poll, his numbers have been stagnant since October 2011 despite heavy campaigning.
Josefina Vázquez Mota will use her political background and take advantage of the gender-role dynamics to position herself as the modern, socially-focused candidate. We will likely see her include education and jobs as the cornerstones of her campaign but her views on the economic model might only be inferred from her allegiance to the PAN party. On her official website, the closest thing to an actual political platform is an invitation to build a national plan through social inclusion and civil participation. Her public appearances follow suit, with statements on how we must build the nation together but lacking substance. Vázquez’ popularity has recently jumped in the polls, catapulting her as the viable alternative for voters who wish to keep the PRI from coming back to power and (at least for now), relegating López to a distant third place position. Her role in the race is being questioned by the media not for her position on any of the issues but by raising the question “is Mexico ready for a woman to be President?”
The leading candidate is still Peña Nieto but his numbers have been on a tailspin due to a series of statements that validate López’ criticism against him for being a “product” or “junk food” candidate. Of the three, Peña is the one whose positions on anything are still a complete mystery. His public speeches have been empty and unclear. Besides representing the return of PRI to power, Mexicans have no idea what he stands for or his value proposition. He apparently opposes the ruling party’s recent administration but his platform called “An Effective State” provides nothing new, different or innovative that has not already been pushed forward by Calderón’s administration.
Why is Peña leading in the polls? Because Mexicans do not vote based on substance. Part of his popularity might be attributed to people disappointed of the PAN alternative looking back to the PRI and thinking “we were better off back then.” Add to this Peña’s good looks and his marriage to a soap opera star which helped him gain points early on in the race. However, Peña is running out of fuel and has nothing with which to fill the tank. Until he proves otherwise, Peña is the candidate “running on empty” as López has pointed out. The possibility of either Vázquez or López catching up, is still very much on the table.
It’s too late for this presidential race, but if Mexicans are to make the right decisions in elections to come, we must invest in creating a better informed and politically conscious voter base and we can’t expect the political elite to do it for us. It’s easier for them to run on personal popularity.
*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.
Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Mexico Needs a Runoff Process” , published on Jan 13th, 2012. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.
On July 1, Mexicans will choose their president for the next six years. This will be the fourth time the electoral process is not organized by the government but by a supposedly non-biased institution, the Instituto Federal Electoral or IFE.
Mexico likes to boast (especially since 2000) that we hold free, fair and transparent elections. And while that may be the case to some extent, the country could learn a lot from its Latin American neighbors with regard to the process in itself. More than ever, Mexico would benefit from the implementation of a two-round runoff election as opposed to its current majority rule system.
Prior to 1994, general elections were but a façade to legitimize the perpetuation in power of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). Without an independent regulatory body to observe the process, elections results were heavily and systematically manipulated, voting booths with opposition preference were ransacked and official tallies always placed the PRI as an absolute majority winner. Under these circumstances, the official rules of the process were irrelevant and a second round of elections would have never made sense as the PRI would always get over 50 percent of the supposed electorate preference.
The PRI’s control over elections had been so blatant that the country was led to believe that José López Portillo had won fairly in 1976 with an impressive 87 percent of the vote. In 1988, Carlos Salinas de Gortari was the last president to win an absolute majority (50.7 percent) of the vote.
Not by coincidence, and after four years of the IFE existing, the first non-government organized elections saw Ernesto Zedillo win with only 48.69 percent of the votes in 1994. Besides recovering from the 1994–1995 crisis, which started with the so-called “Error de Diciembre ,” Zedillo’s most important legacy was probably to pave the way for the IFE’s full independence, and thus allow for the democratic transition of power. In 2000, Vicente Fox of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) won the election with 42.52 percent of the votes. He was the first president to take power in a situation in which the sum of votes from the two other major parties was actually larger than those awarded to him (52.75 percent between the PRI and a Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD)-led alliance). The trend continued in 2006, where President Felipe Calderón (PAN) took power with only 35.89 percent of the votes—a less than 1 percentage point advantage over one of his closest competitor.
Single election, majority rule voting systems work in situations of a two-party system or when one of the candidates is able to conjure up an absolute majority on the first try. But as Mexican electoral history has shown, it’s time to reassess the situation for the country and consider second-round voting.
Mexico has developed into a multiparty system and that system is here to stay. The country has seen the strengthening even of previously discarded small parties such as the PT, PVEM and PANAL. But, more importantly, three major players have emerged and none looks to be going away anytime soon.
Thus, 30/30/30 scenarios become more likely; in fact, since 1994 the country has been run by a person most of its citizens voted against. This is not just a problem of mathematical relative majority, but it also reflects on the ability of the leader to govern. It raises the probability that the president might not have been a voter’s second choice had they been given a shot at a runoff.
A two-round system like in Argentina, Chile, Peru, and many other Latin American countries would permit citizens to express their real preferences on round one. Then when two front-runners are left, they could vote for the “least bad” alternative, or as we say in Mexico “el menos peor.”
It would also eliminate the vice of the “useful vote” in which voters cast their vote based on how they think the majority will. In 2006 when Calderón took power, he did so in great part due to “useful votes.” These people did not necessarily agree with Calderón’s proposals or principles but they thought he would be the only one to be able to beat Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD) so they gave him their support as a means of blocking the PRD from taking power. While it is understood that in a two-round process the useful vote predicament does appear in the latter round, at least citizens can freely vote their conscience initially. Their first choice can be made for the right reasons and their votes are not thrown out on a whimsical guess.
Runoff elections also provide the elected leader with a level of legitimacy we have not had in Mexico since Zedillo took power. Further, if you consider the fact that elections were fixed before him, one could say that it is a legitimacy no Mexican president has ever had. In clearer terms: no Mexican president has been freely elected by an absolute majority (on a first or second round).
In the 2012 elections people will be voting against PRI because they don’t want them back in power, against PRD because they believe López Obrador to be a danger for the neoliberal model and against PAN because they have deemed them ineffective in the war against drugs and organized crime (and yes, a few constituents will vote for their preferred candidate). This conjecture is way too complex for a single majority vote electoral system to resolve in an effective constructive manner.
Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.