This has been a year of worldwide political turmoil–from the Arab spring in early January to the debt ceiling debate in Washington last month–the world has spoken for a change in politics. Mexico is not an exception, and with the coming of Presidential elections in July 2012, the three main political parties face not only a lack of trust from society but a strong activism from civic organizations demanding politicians to raise the level of politics. Each of them have in the following months the possibility to regain the trust from society.
PAN was often seen as the party ‘close’ to the citizen’s demands. After two periods in the federal government, it has been struggling to keep that title alive. Even though PAN is the only party that will be holding a primary election for the Presidential Candidacy, there has been strong criticism for the Cabinet members participating in the primary. One of them holds a decision that could be a breakthrough for PAN credibility. Ernesto Cordero is the Finance Minister, he has been identified as the first truly PAN Minister to hold that office. Cordero’s run for the Presidency looks complicated, his keenness and intelligence have gained him the respect of businessmen, the federal bureaucracy, as well as PAN members, having received thousands of signatures in support. However, he remains widely unknown to the population, he lacks the candidate’s charisma, and he’s far behind in the polls, factors that add up to make him a very uncompetitive candidate even if he gets to win the primary. In addition to the above, the threat of a double-dip economic recession as well as the volatility in the financial markets call for stability in the Finance Ministry, which leads to think that the best way in which Cordero might help PAN to regain the Presidency in 2012 is by staying in Office. The PAN and the Federal Government will have shown political maturity, and a compromise to stability in times of uncertainty, for the well-being of the economy and the country.
PRD has struggle to avoid a breakup, in its recent internal election for the Party’s Presidency, winner Jesus Zambrano had to give up the second position aboard in order to avoid a breakup. The lack of trust in institutions – even in their own ones – have remained a constant in PRD. The Party has two Presidential candidates: Mexico City’s Mayor Marcelo Ebrad, and former presidential candidate Andres M. Lopez Obrador. The former has constructed a moderate center-left reputation, while the latter lost his credibility after losing the Presidency in 2006 and questioning the results and the electoral authorities. Both candidates have agreed on raising polls to choose the most competitive candidate, but the risk of breakup is highly present. Lopez has an explosive temper and many agree that he might not honor the pactt if he losses, which will lead to him running for a smaller party and leave the ‘left’ divided with two candidates. Nonetheless, PRD has the opportunity to show that it believes in institutions by having the losing candidate accept the result of the poll, which could prove that the “left “ in Mexico has matured, and could make of itself a real contender in the 2012 election.
Finally, PRI holds the most competitive candidate in the race: Enrique Pena Nieto, the Governor of Estado de Mexico is 20-30 points ahead of any contender in most of the polls. However, one key concern must be attended: the democratic compromise of PRI. Two issues might help to exemplify PRI’s true commitment to democracy. The first issue is the political reform, after PRI presented the initiative and got it approved in the Senate, the Governor’s group in Congress decided not to vote the initiative that allowed congressional reelection (amongst other mechanisms), an instrument that has shown to strengthen accountability and foster democratization worldwide. The second issue concerns Local Government’s debt, PRI’s President Humberto Moreira -Coahuila’s former Governor- has been accused not only of irresponsibly contracting a huge amount of debt, but also of falsification of documents in order to acquire it. Both issues severely question PRI’s democratic compromise. If PRI decides to approve the political reform and Moreira leaves his Party position to be held accountable for his actions, PRI will be showing a true compromise with democracy, which might help erase the anti-democratization cloud surrounding the Party’s history.
Last month, the biggest state electorate voted its new governor in Estado de Mexico, the election had only forty percent of turnout, a clear sign apathy in the electorate. In contrast to that apathy, society has become more active claiming for a word in policies and politics with civic movements like the ones of Sicilia, Marti, Wallace, De Anda, and LeBaron. If in the 2012 election we expect to increase turnout and strengthen our democracy: PAN, PRD, and PRI could begin by showing its commitment with government responsibility, trust in institutions, and compromise with accountability respectively. The party that seizes its opportunities might distinguish itself in an electorate tired of political parties, and long needed of political maturity.
Harris School of Public Policy
The University of Chicago