Monday, September 04, 2006

One small and hopeful sign - Mexican Election Post #24

There is some discussion that Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas may try to re-establish his leadership over the PRD and separate it from AMLO. If that is true, it may be good news. One of the defects of the Mexican political system has been its reliance on strong personalities. The tradition of the caudillo presents itself in many ways but in politics it can be quite disruptive. The evolution of the Mexican electoral system in the last decade has moved away from that, especially at the presidential level.

The old electoral system (sometimes called the moving finger) would choose one out of the previous government. Perhaps in the 1994 election but clearly in the 2000 one, with the election of VIcente Fox, that tradition was broken or at least side tracked. Zedillo went against many in his party by allowing the IFE to develop into an independent electoral authority. In earlier times the president would have tried to figure out a way to stop the popular movement of Mr. Fox. Fox's relationship with the PAN was one of convenience. Like many US counterparts, Fox developed his political standing outside of the PAN. When Calderon announced he was running, Fox, at least initially, was not supportive.

Any strategist with a political notion would understand the AMLOs tactics are not good in the long term for either the country or for the ideology he supports. Polling suggests that the patience of the country is wearing thin. There are still lots of people who support the goals of AMLO but his tactics will continue to have declining support. If Cárdenas does attempt to reclaim his party and is successful, it is likely that two things will happen. First, AMLO will continue to try to form the parallel government he claims to want to have. But his quest will become more and more isolated. At the same time the standing of the PRD, which in the Chamber of Deputies, is already pretty strong, will be stronger. Second, Calderon, if he is smart, and I believe he is, will think about ways to build some bridges to the PRDista defectors. Any elected leader with less than 40% of the popular vote needs to be adroit in building coalitions.

When you believe you are the chosen one, as AMLO does (not necessarily by the electorate but by higher powers), you believe you are above all rules. But if the story of Cuauhtémoc is true, then that blinded vision will be frustrated from trying to crush the essential elements of democracy.

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