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Column 111405 Andrade

Monday, November 14, 2005


The changing face of Mexican politics


By Enrique Andrade González


George Grayson, a respected academic specialist on Mexico in the United States, stated two unquestionable truths during a recent visit to Mexico.  The three main problems for the National Action Party (PAN) and its presidential candidate, Felipe Calderón, are Fox, Fox, and Fox.  And with eight months remaining before the 2006 elections, the current president could truly sink Calderón’s hopes.


Upon entering the presidential race the government party’s candidate finds himself in third place in the polls, with 25 percent of prospective voters.  Roberto Madrazo, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has 29 percent, whereas Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) candidate, has 38 percent.


Too, this unenviable third place position of Calderón is a result, in part at least, of the performance and results of the Vicente Fox administration.


On one hand there has been an effort to strengthen the official candidate through tips that topflight members of the president’s cabinet will soon join the Calderón campaign.  However on the other hand, the president showed himself to be a poor negotiator at the recent Summit of the Americas, causing a split among hemispheric leaders over the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and assuming the international political costs that include a serious deterioration in diplomatic relations with Argentina.


One of the political costs Fox will pass on to Calderón, according to a recent study by Citigroup, is that a new PAN government would quite likely lack a majority in Congress, the probability being that the PRI will win the simple majority.  As a consequence, there would be a degree of political immobility, a dearth of effective political negotiators at both the national and international levels, and little economic growth.


The other factor that supports Grayson’s thesis, is that at the end of each six year administration there is an aggressive venting of negative subjects that implicate the outgoing government.  These matters, in most cases, have a political cost on the official party’s candidate and this could represent a problem.


A second truth Grayson stated is that the PRI will regain the Mexican presidency with Roberto Madrazo, who represents the traditional party; or with López Obrador, who represents a “new” PRI.


Moreover, assuming that the PAN candidate will not win, there are those who are now talking about an urgent need for the current government to form an exit pact with either or both of the opposition candidates, so that the change in government can be politically safe and dignified.


As these matters unfold other things are becoming clear.  One being that the true beneficiary, in the PRI fallout between Roberto Madrazo and Elba Esther Gordillo (of the national teachers’ union), and as a result of the information leaked against Arturo Montiel, is López Obrador.


There have also been statements by PRI members, like the party’s 2000 presidential candidate Francisco Labastida, siding with the past government of President Ernesto Zedillo.  Labastida has been criticizing the candidacy of Madrazo in an effort to weaken him.  The strategy of the so-called San Angel Group, that Fox, Gordillo and Zedillo are part of, appears to be to do whatever is needed to keep the traditional PRI from returning to power.  This because it would represent an historic failure for Fox’s “Government of Change.”


For the current government, it might be best historically to pass on the victory of López Obrador, who will actually represent a new and different party, the PRD.  This in place of returning the PRI to power, the party that Fox targeted for attack and ultimately defeated in 2000.


So it would appear that the Fox government will work not just on behalf of its candidate, but too it will do whatever possible to keep the option represented by Roberto Madrazo out of office.  Plus it will try to prevent the PRI from winning a majority in Congress.


The strategy however, in order to be successful, must be carried out with great care.  Those involved must be true and experienced political professionals who know how things should be done.  For if a wrong move is made, or something inappropriate is revealed, it could backfire, legal charges might be filed, and the goals would not be reached.


Finally, new features of this strategy can be expected in January, when the 2006 campaigns will begin officially.  Then however, the difference will be that electoral officials will have to control the political parties.



Enrique Andrade, a Mexico City-based attorney and business consultant, writes a weekly column for MexiData.info.  He can be reached via e-mail at enriqueag@andradep.com.