The ones in FRONT

Luis Rubio

The so-called “Front” is a strange entity: it is not an alliance nor a common candidacy. It was born as a great idea: to achieve, all at once, the survival of the PRD and to block the candidacy of López Obrador. Its original rationale was simple: in the logic of the preservation of the tri-partisan monopoly, both the PAN and the PRI would be in favor of the PRD preserving its registration as a political party (which is probably only possible should it win Mexico City) and, at the same time, to prevent AMLO from winning the presidency. Although difficult to operate because it implied requesting a split vote from the parties’ voters, the objective made sense for each of the three major parties.

From the perspective of these three encumbered entities, nothing is more important than the preservation of their monopoly. Under that logic, they have done all kinds of prestidigitation acts to protect themselves; two of these are particularly despicable: they made the re-election of legislators inoperative (because they severed the link between citizens and those who intend to get re-elected), and imposed apparently insurmountable conditions for the inclusion of independent candidates in the presidential race. More recently, as could be observed in the state of Mexico, the monopoly preservation strategy acquired new forms (everything is worth doing in order to win, regardless of the consequences), which have been exacerbated by the management of the FEPADE (the removal of the head of the dispute-settlement mechanism for electoral conflicts) and the indisposition to appoint a new Attorney General. Après moi, le deluge. After me, the flood.

The tri-partisan monopoly has cracked with the (largely inexplicable) conflict between Ricardo Anaya (the PAN’s president and pre-candidate) and the PRI: what began as a strategy of weakening the potential rival (common practice), it has acquired a dynamic of hatred so profound that it threatens not only the monopoly of the three, but even the future stability of the country. The outgoing government has clearly decided that the only important thing is to win, which obviously does not guarantee that their candidate can achieve it.

All this created especially favorable conditions for the PAN and the PRD, through the Front, to join forces an offer an alternative based on the citizenship that would truly contest, and put in check, both the PRI and Morena. Unfortunately, the Front has ended up as usual: the feud of two characters who only aim their personal self-promotion, one for Mexico City, the other for the presidency. What began as a laudable idea has become an individual crusade, but a crusade that has no meaning or possibility for a very simple reason: unless there is a broader project with an extraordinary sense of opportunity, the members PAN will not vote for a PRD candidate and the PRD members will not vote for one of the PAN. As simple as that. In fact, it might not be too much to say that, at one extreme, the Front could bring about the loss of the registration of the two political parties.

Given the weakness of the PRD (the product of its break with Morena) and of the PAN (due to its interminable internal conflicts and its inability to accept its failures when they were in government), the Front had little viability from the beginning; its only chance lay in the potential circumstance that AMLO collapsed or that the PRI nominated a candidate unable to grow during the campaign. That is to say, the opportunity of the Front resides in that one of the other two goes badly and, suddenly, it is faced with the possibility of being one of the two finalists. However, this cannot be achieved with the two respective candidates leading the Front.

For the PRI, the only chance of success lies in that its candidate attract 100% of the PRI vote and then adds some additional points (plus those of its allied parties). The likelihood of the anointed having that capacity seems relatively remote, a circumstance that creates a real opportunity for a candidate of the Front, provided it nominates a character likely to attract the uncommitted citizenship and thus add votes that would otherwise end up fragmented among the multiple voting options. If those of the Front really want to make a difference, they would have to abandon their personalist pretensions and start looking for two candidates (Mexico City and the presidency) likely to win far beyond the two large (but now dwarfed) political parties that make it up. To date, nothing suggests that Anaya and Barrales are willing to get off their horse.

All elections involving multiple candidates without a second round (or runoff) end up being races of two. This responds to the natural propensity of voters to choose the least bad of the two leading candidates when their initial preference does not reach that place, which has come to be called the “useful vote.” The strategy of the PRI has been consistent in lowering the threshold of voting and destroying candidates precisely to end up being one of the two leaders of the pack, thus achieving that even those who hate the PRI would prefer it over the alternative. But one thing is the experienced PRI operators who concoct these strategies and another the rationale of the man who will decide the name of the candidate.

The Front has the enormous opportunity to destroy the rationale of the former and impose itself on that of the latter, but that will only work if they grow in vision and understand the enormous opportunity -and responsibility- that they have in their hands.